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, every cup of tea she drank, the bread, whether it was stale or fresh.

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.


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