Chasing the shadows with sunnier days
September was like a great big pile of leaves just asking to be kicked in the air!
Some hid big stones that I stubbed my toe on and it really hurt. Others saw the leaves fly into the air in glorious colours and made me smile at the sheer fun of it.
A real month of highs, lows, struggles and wins. Tests of friendships, loss, reconnections and celebrations of life!
In short September, on reflection, will be a focus on the good and forget the crap. I guess we often have to cope with karma life brings whether we think we deserve it or not. We often associate bad karma as a punishment for something we have done but perhaps it is just the Universe teaching us lessons we would other wise have ignored.
So as October brings more leaf fall and karma, enjoy the colours, be a big kid and find the balance. I know I will!
I was at a funeral for an amazingly, complicated young lady today who sadly lost a battle at the age of 14!
This photo was on the cover of the Order of Service, it was her favourite image because she always believed that in her dark and troubled times, she would sprout wings and soar. She would soar into the pages of books and never failed to find something to lift her!
I had the pleasure of reading her favourite passage from Treasure Island …
“It was Silver’s voice, and before I had heard a dozen words, I would not have shown myself for all the world. I lay there, trembling and listening, in the extreme of fear and curiosity, for, in those dozen words, I understood that the lives of all the honest men aboard depended on me alone”
The final piece of music was by The Shapeshifters, Lola’s Theme! It was a favourite of both of ours. We would power walk to it and giggle at people looking at us because we both had iPods on and every so often would add a wee twirl or a shuffle to our step!
If I learned anything from Sarah it was that no matter how far you think you are falling, somewhere out there you will find inspiration to fly again! Even in the blackest of times or in the darkest of moods there are words, actions or people that will provide the wings and the love to help you find faith, belief and live in yourself.
I had a bit of a crisis of confidence this afternoon! I was tidying out my clothes and I came across a bag full of t-shirts, shirts, jeans and dresses! Delighted to find them, I tried them on only to realise very quickly why they were shoved at the back of the cupboard. They were all clothes I could fit into during the year I turned 50. I would be lying if I didn’t say the realisation of the shape I am in now didn’t hit me. Yes, I know that everyone is beautiful no matter what but this was more about everything that I had worked so hard to achieve was now sitting in rolls around my waist! Ok so a dodgy knee and a new med regime haven’t helped but those are excuses. Just excuses!
The fabulous at fifty focus was so important to me so perhaps even more fabulous in mind and body by 55 should be the new mantra!
A perfect mantra that will be full of imperfections, perspiration and many many swear words !!!!
We are living through turbulent times my friends!
The old Tory game of who can stab who in the back the most times yet still look totally sincere!
The will they won’t they call another referendum
How long is going to be before someone punches Nigel Farage?????
Is Tom Hiddleston actually dating Taylor Swift?
I have two friends who have a huge man crush on Mr H and Ms Swift’s music just “speaks to them” but the two together … Uh uh girlfriend quote unquote ! Isn’t it funny how two people in the public eye can affect the lives of sane, intelligent human beings. I read a great article by Marisa Bate on The Pool UK website (link at the bottom of the blog) on how she feels about “Swiddleton” especially as “Taylor is still my Oprah …”. I have to admit to being as sceptical as she is, one is a star on the rise and the other has a new album coming out! I have never been the biggest Swift fan, some of her songs do have a certain help me through my break up quality but as an observer of life with all its quirks and foibles, I do love a good are they aren’t they! Don’t judge me!
I was catching up with a friend who, in her words “owns two teenage girls and a gay son who thinks he is a teenager” and is currently coping with door slamming “you are so wrong” screaming arguments. Apparently this household is well and truly divided by a pile of torn up Taylor/Tom posters that both camps are refusing to pick up off the floor. Perhaps it is worthwhile pointing out that the son is in his final year at medical school and the two girls have just got into St Andrews and Oxford respectively! Their Mum is on the side of “I am not getting involved” mode and their Dad is firmly in “who the heck is Taylor Swift?” However as my friend pointed it, once the hinges go on a bedroom door or a pane of glass gets broken by a hurled Teddy Bear then it will be time to shake it off. She does have one small advantage, she used to be a headmistress so when I asked her what her plan was to survive the summer, she shared her evil scheme of paying for all three to go out for the night and then either a. Changing all the locks and making them sleep in the shed or b. Stripping their rooms and moving all three into the, recently vacated by a family of mice, attic with nothing but a bunch of half decent newspapers and no internet access! Clever eh!
I guess in a world where we are bombarded with up to the second headlines it is tough not to be influenced or get caught up in other people’s lives and take a sneaky read at the gossip columns. Is it because of the betrayal we feel by our public figures or the mistrust in their ability to carry out their elected office that makes us feel so cynical about so in so’s so called weight loss or is it just because we believe that the whole thing is carefully manipulated by clever press and PR to get us talking and reading about a pop star and an actor? Or perhaps we recognise it all as fluff and nonsense but it takes us out of the muddle the world appears to be in at the moment and is pure escapism.
So whether you believe that Swiddleton are in love, Michael Gove is a not a back stabber and that the latest stunning glowing skin on that reality “star” is all natural, may I just remind you of one exceptionally insightful Yes Minister series that ran for a number of years. Heed the words of Sir Humphrey and look behind the headlines, read beyond the PR hype, spin and half truths, educate yourself on the truth but most of all, focus on what is real or you might end up in an attic with a pile of newspapers!
Photos sourced from a Google search
When you first arrive it looks like any other city, outskirts full of out of town shopping and suburbs, but it holds a secret and you need to head into the centre to find it.
Now let’s not kid on, Xanthi is like many other Greek Towns and cities, it is suffering, closed businesses and shops are everywhere but it is still a bustling city full of people trying to make a living and coping with what the world is currently throwing at them. Our hotel had seen better days but the rooms were clean, the showers hot and the breakfast not too bad.
We arrived on the evening of Greek Holy Thursday after a long, hot drive through some stunning scenery. We headed into the city centre to explore a bit and found it to be full of the small shops we have come to expect in Greece, and yes, the smell of food was everywhere.
Now Xanthi has a surprise for visitors, all of a sudden you leave the modern city and you are in the Old Town, perched on the hill with the most amazing cobbled streets, full of buildings and sights that are a photographers dream. Yes, it is rundown in parts but it is full of character with many cafes and restaurants to eat and drink in. From the modern to the old school, it has it all.
The food is superb, my tip is to look where the families or older people are eating! Try the more modern places but if you want the really good “home cooking” experiences try the the traditional taverns first.
Now for you shoppers out there Xanthi has a wide range of foodie shops, from the most amazing variety of freshly roasted nut stores to stores that ground their own fresh coffee. “Delight” and sweetie shops with an unbelievable choice, forget your Fry’s you know what Delight, these treats knock it out of the water. And again there are the bakeries and pie shops, a stunning patisserie with a queue that was out the door, to fruit and veg places that would make your eyes water with choice! Again like every other city there are the stray dogs and the beggars but just be sensible and don’t do anything stupid and you will be fine.
Let’s roll forward to the next day, Good Friday in the Greek Orthodox calendar, we woke to the sound of the “sad” bells, this was something I had heard about but never experienced and it was genuinely moving. Wherever you went in the city you could hear them, tolling out the sound of Good Friday. Inside the stunning churches were all very still and quiet. Stunningly decorated plinths holding the precious books and words the Greeks showed great respect to.
I want to fast forward a bit though because after a day of wandering around the old town again, later at night I had the joy of taking part in the Good Friday procession and I urge you, whether you believe or not, if you are ever in Greece at this time, go watch!
We arrived at the Church just before the procession started, the inside was packed with people and the smell of candles and incense was breathtaking. The sung service was very moving and towards the end men were chosen to carry the flower decorated plinth through a packed Church out into the tiny narrow streets. I was lucky in that I had a Greek friend to explain it all to me, the plinth was going to be carried down the hill to the main town square. The mournful music of the brass band and the procession of priests and people really did make it feel like a funeral but what I did not expect was the sight before us when we reached the Square,
At least 12 other plinths all beautifully decorated, each with people and clergy walking behind it. But as we stood and watched them gathering, the crowd parted to let the army through, along with dignitaries and other people holding some kind of public office. The ornate crosses and garments worn by the clergy stood out in the dark rainy night and even the drizzly rain did not curb the atmosphere that had built up. Now whether you believe or not, you could not fail to be in awe of this amazing sight. I am only sorry that my camera decided to pack up so the photos do not do it justice.
After the ceremony was over the crowds all wound their back home. We stopped to get pies and coffee, this religious stuff is thirsty work you know. The next day we stocked up on foodie presents to take home but the one thing I will take away from Xanthi is the surprise that it brought. A city in the middle of nowhere that proved to be an experience. All too often we visit places and never explore deeper into the real towns. We were lucky, our Greek friend knew the town but it is easy to wander off the beaten tourist track people and spend your Euros in places and with people who work hard to survive life,
All photos are mine, please do not use without my permission
This quote feels very appropriate this morning!
For most the pebble will be the tiny seed of doubt, the quiet, whispering voice of no confidence in our ability to make the right choices and perhaps the niggling thought that the X in the box should have been put elsewhere. For my fellow Scots, who voted REMAIN, you didn’t “lose”, what we did was to create doubt in the system that we have lived and allowed to govern us from afar for years.
What we need to do now is to focus on the word future, decide how we want the country we love to look like and work to ensure that decisions do not cause violent divisions amongst friends and communities.
In the last few days I have seen close friends falling out, valued colleagues worrying if they will lose their jobs and be sent “home” and so many people voicing regrets. We have watched the news and heard extremist, headline making reasons for voting LEAVE that appear to a lot of us to hold no real thought or consideration but, whether educated or not, everyone will have placed that X with some thought! Unless you can read minds, please remember that we all have freedom of choice and respecting that choice is key to a free, multi cultural society!
In my opinion the vote will have far reaching consequences for the UK as a whole, what is key now is that our knees don’t jerk in reaction. We need to ensure that calm, considered, educated decisions are made and that, particularly in Scotland, we do not see the resurgence of the “Braveheart” voter. This was a movie full of historical inaccuracies and it is vitally important that we do not base our decisions on the loud hailer rallying cries of tartan flying orators!
Read, research and make informed decisions my friends! I made mine a long time ago and stuck by my belief that the best, biggest, smallest country in the world can stand on its own two feet. For me, although I voted REMAIN, the LEAVE vote has quickened the likelyhood of independence for Scotland. So if there is a second independence referendum, to repeat that old chestnut, don’t be an empty vessel, fill your head with educated, informed facts. If you don’t know where to look ask, no question is ever daft and if your question goes unanswered keep going till you find one.
All opinions are my own and images sourced from Google searches
So the keeping a daily blog on our trip to Greece didn’t work! Simple reason, we had far too much to do, see, visit, eat, drink and nap our way through! During the 12 days we spent there I totally fell in love with the country so I am not going to make this strictly a travel guide type blog, what I hope it will do is to give you my impressions and explain why I think you should go visit the other regions and not just stay on the coast.
It is the second largest city in Greece and I have to say it, at times, reminded me a bit of Glasgow! The people can appear a bit stand offish at first but get to know them and you will find they are just as friendly as we Glasgwegians. There is nothing that a lot of hand waving and miming cannot resolve.
We were lucky to find an amazing appartment through AirBNB and had superb balcony that overlooked Agis Sofia. To be honest we spent a lot of time on there, watching the city go by, eating, drinking, laughing and napping! It was a brilliant vantage point to watch the comings and goings into the church, the mad driving and the odd protest march. For a people watcher, it was heaven. Thessalonika is fab for this!
So when you decide to finally leave the balcony in search of food, there are so many good places to eat from the cafes and bars on the waterfront to the fantastic tavernas we found around the market. You are spoiled for choice and believe you me, you will struggle to choose. One thing you will notice is the lack of the big corporates, a blinking good thing if you ask me. We were lucky because we were travelling with a Greek friend Panos, so he was in charge of ordering a lot of the time. The thing that I really liked was the way the food was served. There is none of this waiting around for everyone’s food to arrive at the same time, when each dish is ready it is brought to your table, so more often than not our table ended up groaning. It is very difficult to recommend what to try as it was all good, just watch because places that can look “modern/trendy” are often more expensive than the more traditional places. The cakes and breads in the cake shops taste as amazing as they look and there was nothing like sitting out in the fresh air with that bitter, strong Greek coffee, enjoying the city! Or try the iced coffees, brilliant for cooling down and giving you that kick to keep the sightseeing bug going! Point to note: some place do not have menus, they will tell you what they have on that day. Also you will sometimes get a free dessert or liqueurs at the end of a meal. One other thing we came across was that Greeks often go elsewhere for their coffee at the end of a meal, gives you a chance to walk off all that souvlaki!
Thessaloniki is relatively easy to walk around however if you want to go up to the top of the hill I would definitely suggest using the red bus tour. It is really steep in part but the view from the top is stunning and you have all of the city below you with Mount Olympus peering through the haze! There is so much history surrounding you and the evidence of a culture that has had to change and adapt over centuries is very evident. It makes for a fantastic mixture of experiences, from the graffiti to the buses winding their way through narrow streets. Again like any other big city just be careful of the light fingered and you will have a great time. Be sensible but enjoy!
We found it was a great idea to use AirBNB and go self catering as it gave us an excuse to explore the supermarkets, bakers and market stalls for all sorts of goodies and we even had a go at brewing our own Greek coffee. The supermarket blew our minds, it was impossible to choose so I have to admit we bought three types of Greek yoghurt! Try the cheese pies, totally addictive!!!!!
Why visit ? It is a really interesting city full of lots to see, eat and do! I didn’t find it at all touristy which, personally, I love. We visited during the week before the Greek Easter which was fantastic as a lot of the traditional Easter foods were available, it is great time to go as it was not too hot yet. With my pale blue Scottish skin I probably looked like a tourist, I didn’t feel like one, I felt at home wandering around the streets and once you get your bearings it is pretty easy not to get lost. Go visit Thessalonika, don’t just fly in and then disappear off to the coast. It is a great city for a wander, sit in a cool, quiet church or just to chill out and watch the world go by!
Next … Xanthi!
A time for lazing around in your pj’s, flicking from to channel to to channel while your coffee machine gently rumbles like Mount Vesuvius with indigestion and you seriously debate whether it really is the height of laziness to install a toaster on your bedside table?
Or perhaps you are one of those eager beavers up and at em running off your little socks round a park, pounding the treadmill or lifting weights heavier than the weekly supermarket shopping bags?
Then again you may belong to that “Mummmmmmm when are we going to swimming lessons/dancing class/football training?”heroes, the well nagged group of people whose Saturday’s are spent either dragging kids away from the telly or using it as a threat to make them go see Granny?
Whatever you do with your Saturday morning, I have one little tip for you, don’t flick the channel to anything with boxed sets! You lie back in bed with your bucket of coffee, your loaf of toast smothered in half a tonne of butter and the next thing it is 2pm, your eyes are all screwed up, your hair could house a flock of birds and you are convinced you are paralysed down your left hand side because you just had to watch one more episode! I am now convinced that boxed sets are the new excuse for not going out! Ok, I like the rest of the world enjoy a day glued to Suits or Gossip Girl or whatever the latest fantasy show is, but only if it is one crap day with the rain chucking it down outside and logically hibernation is the only option!!!! But when you have arranged to go meet someone for breakfast, they cancel at the last minute with the “something came up, I’ll fill you in later” excuse and you can quite clearly hear the music from Game of Thrones in the back ground then you know you have been dumped for a catch up with Jon Snow!
I know of a friend who once convinced herself that she could watch one more episode of Outlander as long as she wrote her weekly shopping list during the programme. She got to the supermarket at 3pm in the afternoon, having written the list at 10am, and discovered not buy 6 apples, a pot of basil, sun dried tomatoes and fabric conditioner but a scrap of paper full of hearts with JC loves Sam Heughan all over it. Bless her, she was of course foolish enough to text me and tell me what she had done and could I remember if she needed toilet paper or if we had drunk all the wine on my last visit?????
TV is often excused of dumbing down our lives but perhaps the overuse of the boxed set to avoid the world is also to blame. Watching chapter after chapter of angst ridden housewives/lovelorn vampires/Hugo Boss suited lawyers does not help and yes, unfortunately your problems cannot be avoided by sitting in a coffee shop because no one told life was going to be this way!
Get up, get out and go grab life! Well at least after one more episode of ……… (Add your preference here)
Well that was day 1! A day full of tiring early morning flights, sunshine, great food, lazing out of the balcony watching Thessalonika go by, beer, water and lots of laughs! Thessalonika is a busy, bustling city with lots of fantastic side streets full of hidden gems of really great shops.