Category: Santorini

Conversations at the corner cafe – Xenos my friend

As I entered the corner café, a stranger said hello.

Saying hello to strangers is not what the British do.

I said hello back and we fell into conversation.

We discovered we had at least one person in common.

And that we both loved Greece.

We talked about other cafes in the area, how another café had told him about the corner café. The best Greek food, and where to get it, the best tapas and SE Asian food. And how Moussaka from the corner cafe had won me a day with James Martin.

We talked about afternoon tea.  How a local café turned a poor review on TripAdvisor, due to them handling it professionally, into a success and brought more customers to the café.

He recommended two places for afternoon tea, one in Edinburgh another in Bournemouth, in the Echo building. Where Bill Bryson used to work I said. Yes, that would be right, he said.

I had been thinking of following the trail of Little Dribbling as a holiday idea before I go on the next big trip. And here I am getting café recommendations. How did he know?

We agreed that Tilt needed sofas.

Our conversation – it was as if we were speaking in code. A language no one else knew or could understand. We were not intentionally excluding anyone, yet this conversation of shared experiences,  no one else in the cafe that day understood.

I told him my story of the church in Santorini. He never questioned that I was led to the spot by my mom, she chose where I was to scatter her ashes. People with faith who know the story tell me God was guiding me. I think that connections with people you love don’t end at death. I think he thought that, too.

We talked about great places to eat, how he visited islands in Greece where no one speaks English. That this was the best Stifado he had eaten outside Greece.

He needed to take his own advice and book his trip to Greece he said. Make it happen instead of talking about it.

Two hours we talked. Two strangers.

I don’t believe in coincidences.coincidence

Later that day I sat down to start working through the Life Purpose Alchemy workbook that Lisa Cherry Beaumont asked me to review.

And I thought about my conversation with the stranger.

Because when he got up to go he asked if he could give me his card. I recognised the name, he is a life coach.

The person we both know is a life coach. I told him about Lisa, my life coach and how much I had changed since being coached.

He wants to live in Greece, as do I. I thought that we may end up working together in Crete combining our talents and skills. Not knowing how.

Today in the workbook I have been working on the section where Lisa asks you to

free-write some ideas about what you could do to earn a living. Play with ideas, without restriction. Don’t worry if it sounds crazy or too “way out” – put all your ideas down and don’t limit or edit what you write. Use more paper if you need to

and I thought about that conversation with the life coach in the cafe.

How comfortable we were sharing information with each other. How defined our goals were. How we believed that anything was possible. How open we were to possibilities. How positive our language was. How we said what we thought. How we went with the flow.

It struck me that this can make some people uncomfortable. We have been conditioned to limit our self belief. From childhood. The day you sing for your teacher and don’t get chosen for the choir you stop singing, perhaps forever. You fail a test and label yourself a failure. If you are not in the ‘gifted and talented’ stream at school, you believe that you will never be gifted or talented at anything.

Two strangers, not limited by can’t. People who don’t wait for someday. Who have dreams and make plans. And put a date on it. This scares people because they like the comfort of limited self belief.

That way they can’t fail.

If there is only one bus a day, I will get it. The first ferry of the season that will get me back just in time for my flight, could be cancelled if the weather is poor, book me on it. Get on the wrong bus, fate will intervene. Telling me I can’t do something is merely laying down a challenge.

The stranger too found himself on islands with one bus a day with no one who spoke English. He discovered he could speak Greek better than he thought.

I guess that if you get on the wrong bus in Corfu, a bus full of locals with goats and chickens and not tourists with sunburn, and two minutes later the bus that gets stopped by the police as it is unsafe, you realise that it has happened for a reason. And when there just happens to be an English girl on this bus (she is teaching English in a remote village) who directs you to the right bus, you just know that things have a way of working themselves out.

Yet somewhere along the way, in between being a carefree student, and becoming a mom and getting a mortgage and jumping on the work, watch, spend treadmill, I forgot this. Instead I opted for safe choices, because that is what I believed I was supposed to do. Get a job, get a house, get married, have kids, get into debt, watch the news and get depressed. Be normal.

Don’t talk to strangers.

In Greek the word for stranger is the same as for friend.

Xenos (Greek: ξένος, xénos, plural xenoi) is a word used in the Greek language from Homer onwards. The most standard definition is “stranger”. However, the word, itself, can be interpreted to mean different things based upon context, author and period of writing/speaking, signifying such divergent concepts as “enemy” or “stranger”, a particular hostile interpretation, all the way to “guest friend”‘ one of the most hallowed concepts in the cultural rules of Greek hospitality.

In my workbook I wrote:

A social media language café, where people can learn Greek and English, life coaching, I could coach people to declutter, fulfilling my need to socialise and help people clear their lives of whatever is holding them back.

I told Lisa that going through the workbook was like playing pass the parcel and unravelling the layers to get to the prize.  The prize? A map of my life. Yet the map is a jigsaw, that still needs to be assembled. I haven’t completed all the exercises yet, I’ve unraveled the layers, found the jigsaw, now I have to build the map.

What I have discovered is that everything that I have done and everything good that has happened to me, the lovely people I have met, the crappy things and the horrid people, has made me who I am now. I needed to unravel those layers. To find my purpose. The map is a jigsaw and I can’t find my way until I put the pieces together. When I am uncomfortable it is because I have forced the wrong piece in the wrong place, as if my shoes are on the wrong feet. Sometimes pieces are missing and we have to go find them.

Or they find us.

The conversation in the corner café was a the missing piece I needed to place in the jigsaw to discover what my authentic life looks like. It is pretty much how it looked at age 23 as I got off the bus full of chickens and goats in Corfu and thanked a stranger.

I asked the life coach if I could write about our conversation.

He said yes, but only if I didn’t say he wolfed down Stifado like a wild animal. I don’t think he will mind.

Addendum 3/6/16

Recently, while in Winchester, I met a Greek bar man and talked about the word Xenos. He told me the word I was looking for was this.

Hospitality, the official English translation of ‘philoxenia‘, doesn’t do justice to the concept as it does not encompass its main element, which is generosity of spirit. The Greek noun ‘xenos’ initially meant ‘guest’, acquitting the meaning of ‘foreigner/stranger’ at a later stage.

I have recently returned from a week on Skiathos. Yes, Greece still feels like home. Never a stranger there, always a guest.

 

 

 

Travelling Sylvia – what Mom did on her holidays 3

Today my mom would have been 84. To say she lived life to the full would be an understatement. She raced through life eager to cram as much as possible into her 81 years, at full speed into everything. Perhaps that is why she ended up with Eddie Molver.

This is him in 1948. Riding the Wall of Death.

And this is Mom in the early to mid 50’s I think with Dad at the TT races on the Isle of Man.

Family photo with my dadOur family went on many holidays, either in rented houses or caravans, usually to Tenby. Often there would be as many of 20 of us as my cousins would bring their friends. We would all pile out of the assortment of vehicles, from Mini Vans to Land and head for the beach.

Here I am with Mom at Tenby, I think this is 1960.

Once she was on her own, and then later with her partner Stan, she got more adventurous. After I had travelled to Greece, she decided to get a passport and go a little bit further than Tenby. On her first solo journey to Greece she met a man and had a holiday romance. After that she mainly travelled to Greece with her sister in law. Finding her diaries of those travels recently made me realise how much she loved that country. So much so this was where I scattered her ashes, on her beloved Santorini.

But back to the adventurous Sylvia.As I said she lived her life on full throttle. Had no fear.

Go up in a microlight over Dalyan, and take photos? Yes she did.

Travel to Thailand and visit the river Kwai. Get into cages with a tiger. Yup both of those. Now I have to say it was A. Unwise to get into a cage with a tiger and B. I totally do not agree with tigers being used as a tourist photo opportunity like this. But this is what she did, act first think later.

On a sledge in Bulgaria, the year she ran away from the family at Christmas.

A random scooter, yes I will just go and sit on it. This Is what she did.

Happy birthday, Mom.

 

The storm will pass

While going through letters – travel memories and discoveries made

The house move is imminent and the cupboard full of letters, cringeworthy teenage diaries and my school books and reports. Memories, good and bad. They have to be tackled.

Hurricane Katy is still blowing everything around, and the news is full of gloom so I decided that this could be the day to do this job.

It is harder than the photos. They took a long time, but I was prepared for the task and knew most were duplicates. The letters, they are a challenge. My mother kept every letter I had ever sent to her. Every postcard. I kept all the letters she sent to me. Every letter my school friends sent. Telling stories of romance, marriage, motherhood, divorce, bereavement. And they have to go. This was the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and then we hand wrote pages and pages, sharing our ups and downs to our closest friends. Now everything is posted daily on Facebook.

Mom keeping everything from her travels and labelling them in shoe boxes. So do I.

I listened to a programme on Radio 4 about Obsession this week. The link to it is here but will only be available until mid December 2015. During the programme they talked about Charles Darwin, his anxiety, insomnia and his passion for collecting things. Cataloging and naming – feeding a system against loss. His great-great granddaughter Ruth Padel wrote The Miser, a poem about this obsession for collecting. Organised, cataloged stuff, is still clutter.

I have old tickets and leaflets to remind me of my travels. Just like Mom.

My first airline ticket. and ID to go to Austria, skiing in 1974 I didn’t have a passport then.

A cabin card from 1971. My first time abroad, to Norway. My school organised a several trips, Norway, Germany, Austria, and my mom worked hard to save up the money so that I could go. Thanks Mom. Sowing the seeds of a life of travel.

Yet every bit of paper has a story to tell.  Like this one.

On Saturday 11 August 1979 I watched The Trojan Women by Euripides being performed in the Ancient Theatre of Epidavros. A play I had studied at school. That 14 year old schoolgirl never imagined in her wildest dreams that one day she would visit Greece see the play in an ancient theatre in Greece. A wet week in Weston in a caravan was her highlight.

I can remember that day as clear as if it were last week. As I had studied the play at school,  I was explaining the plot to my fellow travellers.

Later we went to a taverna where nearly all the other customers were soldiers, who kept sending us wine. Afterwards we went to the beach in the VW camper and had a disco, and almost got arrested. We did have to go to the police station. Fortunately the Greek people we were with, Penny and Antony Marinos, were children of someone important in the government (their parents had met when they were spies in WW2) so all charges against the driver and owner of the VW were dropped. I crawled into the nearest fishermans boat at 2 am to finally get to sleep. It was 1979. I was a student and this was Greece.

School also sowed the seeds of wanderlust. My geography folders were full of tales of travel and tea growing.

I never imagined I would go to a country where I would see people picking tea. But I have.

I dreamed big and it happened. And now the past has been revisited I am ready to let go. Ready for the future. New journeys to make and new people to meet.

Addendum

Just looked up the Greek family I stayed with in Kifissia Athens – I found the family name on some notes I had made. Marinos. Turns out their father was a bit of a war hero in Special Ops. Themistocles Marinos. He was involved in Operation Harling. An academic, and advisor to the UN and Deputy General Manager of the State Railways too. I remember his wife more than him.

I recall that they kept cold water in a Gordons Gin bottle and had very green lawns in their very elegant villa in the suburbs. The bravest are often the most humble. May also explain why the family were involved in a parachuting scene in James Bond movies……. although I cannot find any links to this. Yet.

I then looked up Penny and found more about the family. I remember the mother telling us she was writing a book about the aubergine. Prospero’s Kitchen. Seems this has been relaunched, how exciting.

All this from sorting through old letters! And yes, some of this pile, the memories that have made me smile, are coming to the new house.

 

 

 

Unclutter my life – stop holding onto stuff ‘just in case’

I am downsizing. Big time. From a sprawling 3 storey, 6 bed Edwardian townhouse to a 2 bed Victorian terrace.

There will be nowhere to hide anything that is not useful, very little room for anything that is beautiful, so the stuff has to go. As William Morris said:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

The useful have been culled (no one needs 10 frying pans) the beautiful will be curated (too many dust gathering, useless ornaments and too many pictures that don’t reflect my taste). The Poole Biscuit Barrel met both beautiful and useful criteria so will come to the new house with us. The rest, donated.

Phil, my husband, and I emptied the attic a couple of weeks back and it was truly shocking what crap we had hidden in there. This week we tackled the cellar. Surely the damp, empty cellar would not hold any horrors.

It did. I knew the top box for the car was there (which we have used twice) and the Brio train track (there for 15 years plus) but not the unopened packs of insulation material that were in the attic when we moved here 17 years ago. There were empty plastic bottles we were saving to make a greenhouse. Straight into the recycling. Soggy cardboard boxes. Empty bags that coal had been delivered in. An old light fitting and an old tv stand. To the tip. Our 8th visit to the recycling centre.

Then I found the Lego

Star Wars and Indiana Jones Lego. Plus some odd bits from my youth. Gathering damp dust.

I have soaked it and scrubbed it. And found a new home for it.

Why didn’t I do this 10 years ago? Because I was hiding it in the cellar, holding onto stuff,  just in case.

I have been shocked at the amount of stuff that I have found while decluttering.  

Stuff that me, my husband and our son (to a lesser extent) have held onto. Just in case. Why did we do this?

It might be valuable

Oh the things we hold onto because they might be valuable. Check if it is valuable and if it is, decide whether you like it. If it fits neither criteria set down by William Morris, sell it.

I found some Turkish, never worn, gold jewellery amongst my mother’s vast jewellery collection. This did not meet the Morris criteria and so it was sold. The proceeds paid for a holiday for Phil and I. We went to Santorini where we scattered her ashes as she had requested.

I also found numerous £5 and 5 shilling coins. They were gifts from grannies and they lay around in various drawers. Taking up space, gathering dust like most unwanted gifts. My husband wanted to hold onto them because they may be valuable. I showed him this. They are not legal tender and they sell for very little on ebay. Let Acorns have the money.

It might come in useful someday

A dangerous word. Someday. If someday is code for never that stuff you are keeping will never be used and is dust gathering, space stealing clutter.

I have spent 3 years decluttering this house. Is that what you want to do? Is that what you want for your kids? Think about it for a moment. Is your clutter the legacy you want to leave for your children? They will thank you if you start clearing your stuff now. This is what has motivated me the most on this journey, that my children will not have to go through what I did when my mother died.

If in doubt, apply the 20/20 rule.

Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location.

The Minimalists

The Minimalists are a major influence in my approach to decluttering. They influenced the choice of house that I am moving to (no room to hide that clutter) and enabled me to let go of stuff.

Of course there are other reasons we hold onto stuff.

Sentimental reasons

Old letters

I recently found some letters from a close friend who I don’t see enough of. This person, 15 years ago, was going through a dreadful time. And BF, before Facebook, we wrote letters to off load. And we held on to them. The letters made me sad.  I threw them away as they were just reminders of bad times. They were the past. I can’t change that, but I can help that person now. In the present and in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Childhood toys

I kept two teddies, one was mine and had belonged to my aunt, so is 60 something years old. The other is small and was a favourite of my son. the cot blankets were sent to charity, the old and forgotten Cabbage Patch Doll which was my daughters, discarded.

Thomas and friends. Held onto for 16 years. Just in case. Now being played with by the grandchildren of an old school friend. Loved and used toys. Not dust gathering space stealers.

Bionicle. Eventually let go by my son, who caught the decluttering bug. Held onto for years because they cost a lot of money to buy. Former dust gatherers and space stealers donated to Acorns and sold the day they went on display. £50 in the till for a charity.

Old diaries

I found one and as I read it it, I sobbed. Do I want to hold onto sad memories? No, I don’t. As for my teenage ones, cringeworthy and funny. Useful material when I was the parent of a teenage daughter. She is a grown woman now. It is going to be tough but they will go. So cringeworthy they will not be shared anywhere. May have to set them on fire.

Photographs

I recently threw several thousands of photos away. It was a much needed thing to do that I had been putting off because many of them were my mothers. I can almost hear you gasp with horror.

You threw away photos, how could you? All those memories.

Many were duplicates, poor quality, or no reflection of what my life is now. The rule was that if I wouldn’t display them on the wall, why keep them? I kept the best, the happy ones.

I still have the memories. They are in my head, not on a piece of paper.

The kids artwork/cards

Photographed, blogged about, and recycled. I have kept a few items, yet I think once the move is over I will realise that more will have to go.

Decluttering is therapy

Going through the boxes has been very therapeutic. Discovering old photos that capture the family having good times together and love letters sent to Mom has reminded me of what I have. A past that shapes my future. A loving family. If it brought back an unhappy moment it was discarded.

My stuff defines who I am

I held onto books from my undergraduate days for over 30 years. I bought books, asked for books for gifts, kept all the books I bought the children. Both mine and my husbands childhood books were on shelves unread for decades and gathering dust. I have now reduced my book collection from 4 bookcases to 4 shelves on 1 bookcase. Two were selected to be made into unique artwork (beautiful) the rest have gone to friends and charity.

This shocked many people who know I love my books, who love their books.

How can you?

Because they no longer define who I am.

I am not the 19 year old student studying Bronte and Dickens. The print in those books was far to small for my older eyes. They are on Kindle. For free. I now borrow not buy. Libraries are my source for other printed books. Although the new Bill Bryson may just creep in.

DSCN5745

Hundreds of cookbooks I never use (most recipes are online now).

Books gathering dust. I kept a few cookbooks that I use regularly.

I kept some travel books, Bill Bryson mostly, as I re read these often.

Childhood favorites from the 50’s and 60’s and a couple from the 30’s. Not valuable, but beautiful. These will be made into 3D pictures that will hang in my new house.

Self help books too. Having reaped the benefits of life coaching, I now found these are useful resources.

They all define who I am, now. Not who I used to be. And that is what decluttering has done for me, helped me define the authentic me. I am letting  go of the past. Planning a future for the person I am now.

A person who will not spend her life on the 9 to 5 treadmill, who will not be spending her free time cleaning a cluttered house. I will be a person who who writes and travels. Who inspires others to declutter. Living my authentic life. Life after normal.

 

 

 

 

 

Travelling Sylvia – what my mother did on holiday 2

I promised photos of tigers and microlights. Well you will have to wait because while I went searching for those I found love letters from a Greek man called  Nikos.

She met him on a ferry to Rhodes in 1980.

He couldn’t write in English so he got his friends to write the letters for him.  Some he wrote himself in Greek.

Mom did tell me she had met a man on holiday. I was, at 20, too wrapped up in my own life to take much notice so I didn’t know about the letters. He wanted her to go to Canada with him. He mentions me and getting married so these letters were exchanged for at least three years. Why didn’t she go? I don’t know. Perhaps all she wanted was a holiday fling. As far as I know from the day my father walked out on us in 1966 to then she had not dated another man. She was in her early 50’s,  teaching and not really earning a lot of money. I guess, It would have been a big risk. Instead she met Stan and settled for semi detached suburbia and safe.Mom as an usherette

The girl who ran away to London to be an actress chose safe.

But not too safe. She and Stan did lots of other trips over the years, and Mom went back to Greece regularly with her sister-in-law, Brenda. I found accounts of these trips in some notes that were in one of the boxes of photos. All in long hand, it was her blog. Not being able to get a decent cup of tea features frequently. She documents every meal and refers to her photos of food a lot. I am so much more like my mother than I thought.

When she went to Santorini in 1987 Phil and I took her and Brenda to Gatwick. Of course this was when we lived in Croydon. I had forgotten that.  Later on, when she is talking about food and being ill she writes:

Brenda felt ill and tired, .. thought it was due to hunger as she insisted she hadn’t had a proper meal since Lowestoft.

Mom goes on to say, as if to prove a silent point to Brenda (she did that and not always silently)

…we’d had Chilli Con Carne at Corals,  Ravioli on the plane.  sugar buns we had packed at Croydon plus cheese and salad rolls, toasted sandwich on the boat and a fruit salad earlier

There are two pages about what they had eaten, the nature of the illness and that there was no water in the toilet or wash basin. Once Brenda had recovered they went to their usual breakfast place and had bacon and eggs. And a cup of tea. Just in case they got hungry later she put two peaches in her bag.

My mom and her handbag. She carried everything in it and there was always emergency food in it. Usually leftovers from the night before. In a plastic container.

Reading them has been a joy. It is as though she is here with me telling me about her trip. Every detail, the best loos and every cup of tea, the bread.

Like ET, she was obsessed with phoning home. I remember when we were on holiday with her, the first thing she looked for was where the OTE was.

Got up early and went to phone Stan. Waited from 7.30 (in case of a queue)  till 8 for OTE (telephone) to open. Met a Greek who was also waiting, talked about the time, the island, dogs and the fact that I was going to phone my ‘husband – just a casual chat (he had his worry beads) and why my husband had not come with me. Got through to Stan first time (£3)

Another time, while on the boat to Paros that she had had to arise early for, she records how she and Brenda got their revenge on their noisy neighbours:

Hard to believe we had hardly any sleep last night – noises all night, we had giggles, just wished we hadn’t got to get up this morning. When we did at 7 o’clock we started singing, whistling and banging our door as loud as we could still laughing and giggling.

As I read the account of her time in Santorini, I find a reference to her purchasing this. Glad I kept it.Santorini post card

It saddens me that she never got to write the book she said she wanted to write. The details she has gone into with these notes, the people she met,

I am just reading about Stephanie, the glamorous women who they met at Gatwick.

We both thought her one of the most beautiful woman – what we would both like to look like. Tallish, slimmish, grey fuzzy hair round her face and a plait up the back and on top. She wore a denim skirt, black mules and had lovely eyes, skin and face. Oh well we can’t win them all.

My mom was glamorous – she had been an actress and a model in the 50’s and even in her later years what she wore was important to her.

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At first I thought Stephanie and her husband took Mom and Brenda under their wings as they did not have a clue how to get to the port or where they were going. As I read on and realised they were going to Karistos I remembered the house she didn’t buy in Evia.

Monday 9th May 1984

Brenda was up first and I had a cup of tea in bed. Too late to phone Stan at 9.30, he’d be in too much of a rush anyway. We went shopping for bread and bought a French roll for a picnic and put a pretty crusty loaf in the fridge for breakfast tomorrow. We took lettuce, cream cheese, apple and tomato plus some pure orange juice from a big carton transferred to our small wine bottles off the plane. Brenda really had kept them for water for painting and set off for ‘The Red Castle’ or castle Rosso.

She was well prepared for one of her walks. I can just picture her now in her sandals, hat and big bag, planning the trek up some hill and getting lost.

With us trailing behind her.

 

Unclutter my life – sorting through the photographs

Sorting through the photographs is the task I have been putting off

I have boxes and boxes of photographs, some loose, some in carefully labelled albums, on top of the wardrobe. Gathering dust and giving no one any joy.

And now the decision has been made to sell the house and downsize, I know that I don’t want those boxes to move with us. To sit on top of another wardrobe, gathering dust.

Warren from Married with Luggage gave me some pointers as to how to tackle the mountain of photos about a year ago. Yes, I take my time over these things. I knew it would be emotional. It is my life in those albums. Fifty six years of my life captured on pieces of paper. School days, student life, married life.  And photos of people no longer in my life, for one reason or another. Some have happiness attached. Many don’t.

I also have some albums that I inherited from my grandmother and my mother. Some of those photographs will be almost a hundred years old. Keep or throw? Photographs of people I don’t know the names of. A baby that may or may not be my mother. And no one to ask now.

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Photos of Greece and a surprising discovery

The first photos I tackled were from 1987 and were taken in Naxos and Santorini. My mother and her sister in law went to Greece together for a number of years, 50 somethings island hopping and finding rooms to rent as they went along.

I thought I was going to find these particularly hard, but from three albums I have kept only four photos and this postcard.Santorini post card

This picture of a church is the one that got to me the most.

Santorini church

I am sure it is this church.

The one where I scattered my mother’s ashes. Her final resting place.

There are hundreds of churches on Santorini. Yes the colours are different. Yet I am sure this is the one. When I stood there in April 2014 I had an overwhelming feeling that this was the right place, where she would want to be. Who knew then that she had stood in this very same field to take a photo of this church? I didn’t. She led me there.

Wonderfully uplifting

It didn’t make me sad at all, indeed just the opposite, I felt uplifted. It actually gave me the energy to keep on with the task and just pull out the photos that really meant something and discard the others.

Many are duplicates, back in the day of film we often got three sets of photos, for the price of one. Pre digital we couldn’t delete the dreadful ones, yet kept them anyway. I even found some unused film.

And I had fun, scanning and sharing some photos with old school friends. Finding a photo of an old uni friend and her then boyfriend, now husband, who has just been celebrating a wedding anniversary. Sent it to her and she shared the memory. Other friends begged me not to share any more (I may have mortified an old school friend of my daughters). Yet no complaints when I posted some of me with some of the scary hairstyles I had and poor fashion choices.

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I found these two photographs, where I lived as a child. London in the sixties.

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A real walk down memory lane.

It was tough, yet I am glad I have started. Our new house, wherever it will be is a new start. We will have a life free of clutter. A life that will enable me and my husband to travel more. And that is the life we want. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my life coach, Lisa Cherry Beaumont.

Bookshops I love – Atlantis Books

Bookshop in OiaCould this be the bookshop with the best views in the world?  It was a post by Marketing4Writers on the Bookshop Tuesday series that reminded me of this one. This is the only photo I have of it. I cannot now understand why I did not go in, although I was on a special mission that day.

Atlantis Books

A good reason to return to Santorini and visit Atlantis Books.

 

 

Not quite island hopping in Greece

But almost.

Santorini was always going to be the main destination for our week in Greece. Despite there being no direct flights from Birmingham to Santorini or to Athens, I knew that as a nation of sailors there would always be a ferry to catch. I thought we may get to visit a couple of other island in The Cyclades, but that was not to be. Yet, the Blue Star Delos that sails at 7.30 am each day from Piraeus to Santorini stops at Paros, Naxos and Ios, so at least I got to see these.

To get to Santorini we first had to get to Piraeus on the overnight Amek Lines Kretti 2. It sounds like a long way round, and it was, but in the end the arrangements suited our needs to always be on the move. I last did this sailing in 1979 and we slept on deck on towels. This time we were assigned couchette seats on the top deck, and thought they would be adequate as they were bigger than seats on a plane, but that was not to be.

Everyone, including the police, watched tv, smoked and talked all night. Instead we dozed on uncomfortable chairs in the bar area, along with most of the other passengers. The experienced travellers knew the best seats and spread out early on so they got somewhere semi comfortable to sleep. We did however have very good value food from the cafe (with the company of the bearded Mykonos FC) and waiter service at the bar. If I did this again I would probably look at upgrading to better seats.

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We had 24 hours in Piraeus and Athens and visited The Acropolis and had lunch in Plaka. I would highly recommend that you base yourself in Piraeus especially if you have, like we did, a 7.30 am sailing the next day. It is easy to get to Athens on the train, we got a 4 Euro all day transport ticket, and Piraeus had lots to offer in the way of coffee shops and bakeries, and cheap accommodation.

Our next ferry was the Blue Star Delos. Despite an early start this was a lovely relaxing mini cruise to The Cyclades. If the weather is kind there is plenty of seating on deck. It also has kennels with an dog exercise deck, a cafe selling fast food and a bar area. We had traditional spinach pies for €2.40 each, tea for €1.20 and a latte for €3.70. It was crowded and you need to board early to get decent seats, although there is the option of upgrading to numbered seats in quieter areas.

The best bit for me was pulling into the ports of Paros, Naxos and Ios. Then finally Santorini. Mom told that the best way to approach Santorini is by sea. She was right.

I wanted to get off at all of them. Hopefully next year I will. I love the mad frenzy of passenger embarking and disembarking, the chaos of getting vehicles on and off the ferries in such a short time.

As we visited each island the numbers dwindled on the boat. When we had left Piraeus the passengers were about 60% locals returning home for Easter and 40% tourists. Most were American or Chinese. By the time we got to Santorini about 75% of those disembarking were Chinese. Speaking to our hosts in Santorini, they told us that in spring most of their guests were from China and from Russia in the summer. Most other tourists we met were American or Australian.

I really cannot recall meeting or hearing any other British people other than at the airport, or on our flight, in the week we were there. Not at Knossos, the Acropolis or on Santorini.

Have the English abandoned Greece? Or have they lost their sense of adventure and only visit Greece on package holidays?

If so, that is a shame as they really do not know what you are missing out on. It has been a few years since I was last in Greece, and while I have loved everywhere else I have been to, Greece is still like coming home for me. And I will be back. Soon.

Santorini – a final resting place

There is only one reason I went to Santorini

Mom had asked for her ashes to be scattered there. She first went to Santorini in the1980’s with her sister in law. For many years, every summer Mom and Brenda, both then in their mid 50’s, went island hopping in Greece. She fell in love with Santorini. And so did I.

Windmill Santorini
Windmill Santorini

It was just over a year since she passed away and I finally decided it was time to take Mom ‘home’. Before she died she told me she wasn’t sure that she wanted ‘it’ to be Santorini. I think she was worried that it may have changed from what she remembered. And she had since travelled to so many other places she loved. Dalyan, Turkey being one.

Dalyan

After she died, I was not sure where she really wanted to be, her partner and I thought Dalyan. My daughter suggested we took her to all the places she had travelled to. A lovely idea, yet limited by money, I was not sure I could fit in Thailand, Egypt, Greece, Malta, Menorca,Turkey, Hong Kong, and goodness knows where else she had travelled to.

Approaching Santorini by sea
Approaching Santorini by sea

Turkey

I had three overseas holidays last year and took a little bit of Mom to two of those destinations and one in the UK. I may have broken Turkish law but I knew she loved it here in Dalyan.

Mom in Dalyan

Malta

And I found the perfect place in Malta too.  I chose Marsaxlokk as it is a colourful village that hosts a lively Sunday market, and no one loved a good market better than my mom. Only after I had scattered her ashes I realised that the curtains hanging in a little house overlooking the spot where I left her are identical to the ones my mother had in her home.

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Stratford-Upon-Avon

Mom had also been an actress back in the 1950’s and one of her very last outings, before she got too ill to leave her home,  was to Stratford-Upon-Avon to see The Tempest. I thought she may enjoy being here, in the shadow of The Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Swan on the River Avon

As time went on, I knew I really needed closure and in my heart I knew I had to take her to Santorini.

The journey to Santorini was complicated

Phil and I could only get flights to Crete at this time of the year, yet I was pretty sure that we would be able to get to Santorini from there, by boat. When we arrived we discovered that the fast ferries were not running until 17 April. Our flights home were in the early hours of 18 April. At that point I was thinking that we would only get a day trip to Santorini and have to spend the rest of the week on Crete. As much as I love Crete, I really wanted to spend more than a day on Santorini.

I was not prepared to give up and with the help of a brilliant travel agent, Paleologos, in Heraklion, planned an itinerary that got us to Santorini on the 15 April via Piraeus. We would be leaving Santorini on the first fast ferry on the 17 April at 6pm, with plenty of time to get our flight at 1am on the 18th. This was cutting it fine, as the Sea Cats don’t run if the weather is windy. Ah well, I had taken out insurance and enhanced it to cover unexpected events, given our history of holiday almost disasters. If the weather made us stay longer in Greece, so be it.

It also meant that there would be an unexpected bonus of visiting The Acropolis in Athens.

The Acropolis

Mom had made her first journey in Greece from Piraeus in 1980 when she travelled solo, flying to Athens and then getting a ferry to Rhodes. She loved Piraeus and the bustle of getting on and off ferries, so I was pretty sure she had had some influence on these plans. She was going to get her last bit of island hopping in before settling on Santorini.

A twitter friend recommended accommodation in Santorini. What a find! Affordable, comfortable and the owners, Katerina and Nectarios treated us like family rather than guests. And Katerina is a fantastic baker. We didn’t want to leave.

Katerina

Santorini has a reputation for being expensive and yes there are some places that are eye wateringly pricey. Yet it is still possible to visit and enjoy Santorini on a modest budget.

We were based in Fira, the capital, but I had an inkling that it was Oia that Mom had stayed in, so we took the bus there with Mom in the back pack.

Oia

Oia is stunning. I had seen countless photographs and was worried that it would not live up to my expectations. It exceeded them. And I knew this is where Mom was meant to be.

We got away from the crowds and searched for the perfect place. And found it.

Mom wasn’t religious yet I thought being in front of a tiny church was appropriate.

Church in Santorini

And this field of daisies just seemed to be the right place.

Daisy field

This is the view.

The final resting place

And I chose the right place, as after I had left her in her final resting place, although off the main drag where tourists gathered, everyone who passed the field stopped to admire them and the view. So she will get plenty of visitors. She would like that.

Daisies