Who are You? Day Four Assignment

Well who is my audience and who am I hoping it might be? Hmmmm, probably someone a bit like me, trying hard to be wonder-woman and not really managing to keep up, perhaps also living an equally chaotic life juggling a newish husband, large house and garden, complete with tortoise, children, step-children, step-grandchildren, elderly mother, siblings, hugely extended family and masses of fab friends, and trying to keep everyone happy including me! This list, by the way, is not in any particular order of importance.

Ideally I would love a magazine editor to say how marvellous, please come and write for us but that is just not going to happen.

So this is to all you other super-women and super-men who may have an idea of what my life is like and can empathise with the day to day dramas that I like to write about.

I would also like a dog, so that I can add another juggling ball/puppy to the mix!  Only a little one who can be easily carried from one side of England to the other in my car or on the train.  Now that’s a thought –  #offtolookatpuppywebsites!

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Day 2 of Blogging 101

Hmmmm, take control of your title and tagline?  I think, and hope I am right, that my title and tagline say exactly what I do and more or less what my blog is about.  Diary of a Devon Exile – town mouse to country mouse – though nothing mousey about me!

The town mouse and country mouse bit is taken from Beatrix Potter’s Johnny Town-Mouse which everyone would have read as a child and is one of my favourite Beatrix Potter stories.  I don’t actually like mice and have just come across one scampering out of a cupboard in our friends’ house in Crete whilst I was cleaning up before we leave tomorrow.  I think it has gone under the sofa but don’t want to look and the dog has been absolutely useless, opened one eye and then went back to sleep in the sun!

So I feel I took control of my title and tagline and intend to leave it as it is.  Though I do now have an understanding of how to change it if I felt like it – so thanks WordPress!

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Things I love about Crete

We are very nearly at the end of our six week stay in Crete, house-sitting for friends.  We have had such a fabulous time and I am only very slightly looking forward to getting home.  The first on my list of what I love here of is the sound of the birds, but in the last couple of days the cicadas have woken up and are trilling away.  Sadly they drown out the bird song in the mornings and they are really ugly looking things.  The only other noise is the sheep and goats and their tinkly bells that some of them wear around their necks.  Otherwise silence, no aeroplanes, cars, motorbikes, just sheep, goats and us.

Then the night sky is extraordinary; the full moon has been shining down in silvery day (?) light on the terrace for the last few nights.  Makes me think of that Robert Louis Stevenson poem, the moon has a face like the clock in the hall, she shines on thieves on the garden wall, and so on.  And we have been having fun with my star finder app, Skywalk, checking out satellites, the alignment of Venus and Jupiter etc etc etc.

And then there is the food, which is amazing.  I just love Greek food.  I could happily eat souvlaki and a Greek salad every evening for a month.  And I probably have.  Dakos is another of my absolute lunch time favourites, and the very kind decorator who has been coming in every now and then to paint the outside of the house, brought me some of his own sheep’s mesithra cheese on Saturday.  Probably coz I wasn’t too pleased to see him at 6.30am the other day, nor was the poor dog who hates Greek men having been badly treated as a puppy.  9 o’clock in the morning onwards is ok, as he is here for 4 hours, but when he comes at midday, not so good when I want to waste an afternoon swimming and sunbathing by the pool.  But his plastic bag of sheeps cheese is soooo delicious.  I rather want to take it back to Devon, but don’t think that security will allow it in my handbag on RyanAir.  We have found a fab restaurant in Georgioupolis which has a huge tank of lobsters and what they call crabs, but not crabs as we know them in Devon.  We have now been twice and had lobsters, squids, salads, pork steaks, seafood pasta, and the inevitable raki which is actually really nice there.  Anyway, today I made Dakos for lunch along with some really nice local rose wine and I shall definitely have to try to recreate this next time we have a hot night back home.  Just need some extra delicious tomatoes of course, and where do you buy those Dakos rusks anyway?

After that the mountains that change every evening as the sun goes down, watching the shadows lengthen.  The dozens and dozens of olive trees everywhere, the smell of a ripe fig tree when you walk past whilst taking the dog for her evening walk. The wonderful colour of the sea, and of course the wonderful Cretan people who make this place so special!2015-05-30 16.58.58

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Day 1 of Blogging 101

Well, I have just signed up to a WordPress course on how to be a better blogger.  This is the first assignment titled Introduce yourself to the World, so bear with me.  I do have an ‘About Me’ page already on my blog, but as this was done several years ago, maybe I should update it.  I am now on the right side of my sixties, blimey how did that happen, still have two gorgeous children in their twenties, and a not-so-new-now extraordinary husband – we had our 6th wedding anniversary just the other week.  We still live in Devon, but my heart still lives in London.  Here’s what I miss:  streets that are lit up by street-lamps at night time, red buses, Uber taxis (except that they are now spreading to other cities, yay!), rainy pavements, fab shops and museums, and above all my children and my friends.  Here’s what I love about Devon:  Exmoor, the beach, owls, the silence and my new Devon friends, of course.

I started blogging because I think this is the novel that I shall never write, so who knows, maybe after a year of writing regularly and having finished this course, I could start on this famous book of mine and then within a couple of years be churning out books as often as Danielle Steele does, or Barbara Cartland used to!  I tend to write about my rather chaotic family life, the ups and down of being what is referred to a part of the sandwich generation, simultaneously trying to keep an eye on my elderly mother and be on hand to look after the littlies whenever called upon by my step-son and beautiful daughter-in-law.  Not forgetting my own two children who don’t actually need that much looking after any more.  I write about our travels, my friends, and lots of other nonsense.

So here goes!

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Aussie Friends to stay in Crete

Can’t begin to say how excited we were when our friends from Canberra said they could join us in Crete for a week.  They worked their summer trip to Europe around a week here with us.  Enormous fun, and we so loved having them to stay and showing them some of our favourite places.  Two highlights stand out.  One a memorable day in Loutro where Mr Aussie went to choose our lunch from all the fish on display.  An enormous feast appeared, lobsters, sardines, squids, the most ginormous Cretan salad, plenty of wine and the inevitable raki.  We had already started our day with a quick sharpener of a Mojito as soon as we got off the ferry from Chora Sfakia.  We sat over our lunch more or less all day, our swim never happened, and the drive over the mountains on our way back to Vrysses didn’t seem as hair raising as usual.  We probably went to sleep rather early too!

We also had a lunch and wine tasting at the Dourakis winery just outside Vrysses.  We had been for just a wine tasting two years ago and this time we were able to have lunch too.  This is such a wonderful place.  The staff are all delightful, our tour of the winery, herb garden and cellars was fun and the lunch was super amazing!  Ditto the wines that went with each course.  I loved the Lihnos Vidano white wine and the rose – Kudos – was scrummy.  Best of all in my opinion was the dessert wine called Euphoria which tasted of strawberries and all things delicious. Bought two bottles of this to take back to the UK to enjoy at my birthday, or Christmas or probably just rather quietly by myself!

And then all too quickly Mr and Mrs Aussie left for their next stop before returning to Canberra.  The house is quieter without them and we, well me anyway, have now gone back to swimming and sunbathing – got to top up the tan before getting back to the UK next week.  Ironically though the UK is in the middle of a heatwave, temperatures off the scale and tabloid headlines of Phew Wot a Scorcher no doubt. But as Wimbledon has started it’ll probably be the usual pattern of two to three sunny days then a thunderstorm and then back to a good old British Summer.  Keeping fingers crossed that it carries on till September please!

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Best Friends

You know when you are little at school, you have a best friend who changes almost daily usually because of someone taking your pencil or stealing your rubber and then has to be not your best friend any more and you quickly move on to the next pig-tailed non-pencil-nicking friend.  Well, some people have loads and loads of regular acquaintance-type friends and some people like me have just some amazing best friends ever.  Boarding school makes you form much stronger bonds I think and so my dearest mates from my boarding school days came out to Crete the other week for more fun and games, like we did two years ago.

We have gone through so much together and shared so many different thing, from bath water to beds, clothes to confidences, and several happy holidays.

We enjoyed a day at Loutro with sardines and calamares for lunch and that hair raising drive over the mountain, we bought baklava for pudding, we sunbathed, swum up and down the pool and in the sea at Loutro with our rather unbecoming swimming shoes on.  We did notice the gorgeous bikini clad girls who daintily walked over the stones and rocks into the sea without seeming to notice the pain.  We sat with our tapestries -again – much to the amusement of my wonderful husband, in the shade, stitching and bitching We put the world to rights, drank cocktails in the sun and planned our next big adventure.  

They are now safely back in the UK, I miss them already.

  

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Rain, in Crete? No, really!

Being frightfully British I am talking about the weather.  For the last few days the rain has been coming down like a tropical rainstorm but going on more or less the whole day rather than like in the tropics where it stops and the sun comes out and everything goes quickly back to normal and the wet roads and gardens steam merrily away.

Even the dog is suffering from depression.  She came knocking on the door from the terrace and then stood looking like a cartoon hang-dog, tail down and head down.  She obviously doesn’t like the rain either, what she will be like when she is brought back to the UK later this year, I can’t imagine.  Eventually I found a towel for her to lie down on and she settled fairly happily.  Poor little pooch, and poor us getting cabin fever from being inside all day watching  DVDs of the Good Wife.  Excellent, by the way, and thanks to my friends for the recommendation.  And the swimming pool too stands empty, waiting for the sun to warm it up a bit, or rather a lot in my case, so that I can have a swim.

This morning though, so far so good, the sky is blue, I can’t see any clouds, and fingers crossed it will stay like this.  The garden has benefited from all the rain and the mimosa tree just has to be seen.  It is glorious and the smell is wonderful drifting across the terrace during breakfast.  I love mimosa;  I had a wonderful boyfriend who used to buy me mimosa from that flower stand that used to be at the corner of Bond Street and New Bond Street.  I don’t think it is there any more, but I am going back 40 years.  The mimosa was sold in plastic bags, and come to think of it, I haven’t seen mimosa on sale in flower shops for ages.  Probably something to do with living in darkest Devon.

  

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Oops!

Blimey, nearly a year since I last visited my WordPress blog.  Too much has happened that would be totally boring to most people – but to paraphrase:  September, October and November 2015, were spent pretty much in my car on the M4, M25, and that long road to Tunbridge Wells that seems to take forever to help out my sister and getting my mother in and out of hospital to have her hip replacement re-done, the complications that followed, more surgery, more appointments, and at last very nearly pain-freedom.  Though what with her vascular dementia, I don’t think she actually remembers what it had been like for the previous eight years, to see how far she has come.  So huge credit and hats off to my big sister who has to cope on a daily/weekly basis with having Ma down the road and all the dentist, optician, memory clinic appointments and so on that are part of Ma’s routine nowadays.  This year has really been more of the same, plus lots of looking after the little ones, gorgeous grandson and little 15 month old granddaughter who I would quite like to preserve in aspic right now as she is too cute and lovely at the moment.  She stomps around, jabbering away in babyspeak, quite fearlessly.   It won’t be long though till she can speak proficiently and will be able to say my name properly- K seems to be difficult -P for Papa, D for daddy and M for mummy come more easily.  Such is life!

So what else have we been up to? Plenty of visits to London to see my beautiful children, my clever daughter’s graduation ceremony at the Institute of Education which was wonderful.  A huge proud mummy moment.  We went to France for a quick stay in the Pas de Calais area just before Easter to a really lovely hotel, Le Cour de Remi, in a tiny village called Bermicourt.  This was a fab hotel, yummy breakfasts and delicious suppers.  So lovely that we shall be going again in September.  There is plenty to see there, with the WW1 trenches, cemeteries and memorials, and wonderful chocolate shops.  As we were there just before Easter the shop windows were full of those amazing choccie goodies that the French do so well. 

So winter came to an end, spring arrived, the tortoise woke up and summer started, just, and here we are again in Crete for a few weeks.  

So after a stressful, busy and rather exhausting few months, the mountains, Cretan air, sunshine and obviously the occasional glass of wine are beginning to work their magic. And even the swallows around the pool don’t seem to mind me joining in with their swims too much. 

So, off into another Summer in Crete! 

  

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My Summer 2014

It all started really well, my garden was beginning to look good, flowers flowering, roses budding, and the tortoise warming up nicely.  I have even grown tomatoes in special tomato grow-bags which have done what they were meant to – so exciting picking tomatoes from my own plants! We had loads of days of hot sunshine and by the time we got to St Swithin’s Day in July, it was all set fair for the rest of the summer.

We had drinks, lunches and teas in the garden on more occasions than I can remember and several days on the beach. Children of mine, you will know that I don’t really do swimming, or getting my hair wet, or cold English sea.  But this year was different, I have now swum in the sea more often than ever in my whole life – three times!  And I got my hair wet, totally by accident mind you, because the waves were a bit too wave-like and splashy, but I didn’t have the usual wobbly hissy fit.  Plus, swimming makes the Hocking’s ice-cream afterwards, complete with chocolate Flake and a dollop of clotted cream on top feel slightly less guilt inducing.  My favourite beach at Northam Burrows was bliss, acres of sand, blue skies, blue sea, and the ice-cream van parked conveniently close by.

My garden has never looked better.  Gertrude Jekyll I am most definitely not, but I have to say that my roses have been extraordinary. I love David Austin roses and this year they looked splendid.  I picked them often and they looked just like the photographs in the David Austin brochure – might even have to send them a few to show how even an incompetent gardener like me can grow something so totally beautiful.

Then August arrived and it all went badly wrong, it rained a lot, strong winds battered everything down, the tortoise sulked and so did I. Grey overcast skies do nothing for one’s mood, and the invitations to various friends, family bods etc to come and enjoy hot days in Devon sounded rather empty.  I blame Hurricane Bertha entirely which must have done something to the jet stream to change everything so much.  We have even had to have the central heating on in the evenings recently.  All our summer guests enjoyed themselves though, if you can’t spend the day on the beach or Exmoor, you can always enjoy the most amazing local food, so lots of Devon Ruby beef, fish, clotted cream and damsons,  not to mention the cakes and crumbles that a rainy day insists on.

Today is the last day of August with Autumn arriving in a few weeks, children will be going back to school in a few days including those lucky enough to be in my beautiful daughter’s new class in London.  September is usually a wonderful last hurrah of the summer and from the forecasts looks like it may be. I don’t have to put my garden chairs away quite yet, my roses are once again covered in huge buds, so I have put the white wine and the rosé back in the ‘fridge and am looking forward to several more sunny lunches in the garden with the tortoise.  Now where is that Prosecco that I won at the Filleigh Car Fest?

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My Year So Far…….

Oh crikey, it’s been months and months since I have been here.  So what have I been doing?  Well, what haven’t I been doing?  In the last six months, if not nine actually, there has been been one wedding, one funeral, and one birth to start with, though not in that order.  Wedding truly beautiful, my lovely nephew and his new gorgeous bride, a really amazing and very happy family occasion.  A very sad funeral for a brother-in-law after a shockingly short illness, and then a brand new dizzyingly cute little grand-daughter arrived in the Spring.  So a lot of my time has been spent rocking a rather refluxy little baby to sleep, cooing over her baby gurgle voicemail messages that she leaves me and choosing frocks at every possible opportunity (both for me and her!)

My wonderful husband has been to China and back on business and managed not to eat the snake he sent me a photograph of, that was one of the ‘specials’ on the menu that day in Ningbo.  I asked him to bring me back a panda to make a start on eating the bamboo at the end of our garden that badly needs someone, preferably a panda, to try to clear it.  Sadly no panda packed into his suitcase, but bucket loads of tea.  Nearly all the tea in China, but not quite.

Whilst he was away I went on a road trip to visit friends.  I started with my besties from way back, the ones who joined us in Crete last year.  We three had the most fabulous day at the Spa in the nearby Four Seasons Hotel.  So spoilt!  Luckily it was one of those perfect English summer days, blue sky and wonderfully hot.  We swam in a huge pool, that had doors that continued the swimming pool into the outside area where there was a proper jacuzzi type spa with very high pressure outlets that could pound your neck and shoulders or do amazing reflexology to you feet, back, wherever.  There was delicious cucumber flavoured water to drink, sunbeds with soft mattresses and enough towels to start one’s own market stall with,  There was also an extraordinary darkened room with beds and headphones where I was hoping to do a bit of quiet chilling out.  Old Squiffy came with me and just made me giggle and fall off the bed – which in fact was just as good as having ten minutes down time – not sure that the other meditators felt the same though!

I was also taken to the scrummy Chinese restaurant half way up the Shard by my gorgeous son. What an evening, London looked like toy-town, 32 storeys down.  Being June the daylight lasted for ever, then when the sun finally went down London sparkled beautifully.  

What else?  My beautiful daughter has nearly finished her PGCE, she has worked so hard and I am immensely proud of her.  Her new class of children will be very lucky to have her in September.  Plus my garden looks amazing – I am also rather proud of that too.  Good old David Austen roses!  So staying in Devon for the summer is paying off, pots get watered, tomatoes get grown and the tortoise gets fed – everyone happy!

 

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