Farewell Greece!

The term has ended, the parties are over, the packing is upon us and the move has begun in earnest. What will I miss and what am I looking forward to?

First, the mountains; Mount Parnitha and Mount Pendeli are in my sights pretty constantly. They frame the journey to and from school. I can see at least one of them from all my favourite places; the vineyard, my balcony at home, Schinias beach and the local cafe terrace. And when driving back from a trip, the first sight of one of them is the signpost for home. I haven’t walked up them nearly as much as I would have liked. But I have loved the fact they frame my life.

The vineyard, Ktima Kokotou. Home to friends, great wine, a wonderful playgroup and holiday camp, and a place that never failed to feed my soul and restore a sense of calm. More on that in another post.

Graviera and fig jam. Frankly it is my ambrosia. In fact I will miss the abundance of dried figs, fresh herbs nuts and fruit in general. And the fact I could buy local, seasonal good stuff reusing paper bags and have a friendship with the ladies who run the greengrocers.

The wildness. When I first arrived I felt it was all messy. It still is, but I have learnt to appreciate the abundance of the natural life bursting out of anywhere it is allowed to flourish. Wildflowers on the verge of a roadside garage, birds and bats making their home in half built buildings. The tortoises and butterflies in the playground.The litter and graffiti are still an eyesore but there is something to be treasured in the way that nature is not managed into sterility. And how glorious to discover that next doors tree with bright orange flowers is a pomegranate tree, and to realise that fig leaves are actually quite big!

There two other aspects of my life I will miss most (apart from time to write!). The first is a sense of anonymity and independence from anyones expectations. The majority of my childrens friends are from a different culture and the expat community is diverse, and even the Brits here didnt know us previously. It has meant I could be very deliberate about how I lived and how our family worked. Having a big house thst others came to helped build my empire. Back home, we will be part of a family and a community with expectations that will again shape how we live and I will lose a bit of that control. Thats probably healthy!

The other sense I will miss is that of being more connected to the rest of the world. The Middle East is very close. Conflicts and refugee flows have very real consequences here. I was sent a picture of a Syrian refugee snuggled up in the baby cot my daughter had just outgrown and I had donated the day before. If you can look at your possessions and in all honesty know that if you give it away it will be used immediately, it brings home just how much we have.

What am I looking forward to?

Walking. Walking in my daily life, to school, on my commute, to the shops and also walking at the weekends. Climate and babydom have been the main constraints to doing more here but I have missed it a lot.

The National Trust. No really! Not just the wonderful places to enjoy spending time with the family but also the whole concept. The idea that a group of interested citizens can work together, often through volunteering to steward something of national importance, whether wild places or houses of heritage. I think its something we take for granted but we shouldnt. Its a national treasure in itself.

Online shopping and being able to buy groceries in one place rather than the three regular places I go weekly here! The convenience wont make up for the seasonal local fresh stuff though.

Daffodils, bluebells and blackberries and all my benchmarks of the changing year. Over time I learnt more about the plants here but I still dont feel connected in the same way that you can walk down a familiar path amd know what to expect. In particular I have really missed our family haven and the peace and connection I find there.

Anchor friends. People whose friendship helps define who you are. Mine are in the UK. They have done an amazing job keeping in contact and we have nearly 60 different visitors in our three years but it is time to live in the same place and reconnect again.

Did I mention car parks, traffic junctions and roundabouts? I will never take road planning for granted again!

There is so much more to say, and I havent done justice at all to the wonderful people who have been part of our lives here. But for now. Greece, Adio!


One place at a time..

We are moving back to the UK in the Summer. It is a bizarre process in some ways, particularly with small children, because your head is full of big life questions but their daily needs are still so dominant. I was told once that people either experience life as ‘in timers’ where they are distracted by the moment, or ‘through timers’ where they always have some thought directed to whats happening next. I am very much in the first category. This poem tries to express how it feels when you are preparing to move. It reads slightly surreally and disjointed. But then again, that’s how it feels.

One place at a time

“When you move countries, you live where you are living all the time…until you dont.

All the normal mechanics of life only ever happen in one place at a time. You shop, cook, wash, supervise homework, go to the playground in the same way you always did.

“When are you leaving? How is packing going?” is what you think about with other people. When you are on your own, it is just a list of jobs that need doing, sometimes more or less complicated than at other times, and sometimes it all feels overwhelming, but whatever happens in life, aren’t there always lots of jobs to do and decisions to make?

At the weekend you go to a mixture of places you have been before and you like, and places you haven’t been before, Just because you won’t go many more times does not mean you aren’t fully experiencing it: Just because you might not see someone much or at all once you move does not mean you don’t value them or appreciate their friendship now.  Life is always moving on, even if you stay in one place.

But once you do move, you are no longer living there. You will then be experiencing somewhere else. And all the normal mechanics of life will take place there. And it doesn’t matter where you were living the week before, apart from the things in your head, like the fact that you might keep thinking you catch sight of people who you knew in the other place.

People don’t see you leave. It is just that you are no longer where they would normally see you. They might remark to each other that they miss you… Or they might not.

People don’t see you arrive. One day you just happen to interact with them in the course of their lives. They might say it’s nice that you moved there…. Or they might not.

Because their day is happening, just as yours is, in the place where they live.”