We’re always being urged to “Think Big”, to stretch our imaginations to see what is possible, to visualise what we want to (and can) become.
It’s stirring stuff. Just the sort of thing to get us fired up at a motivational talk and walk out of the door ready to take on the world and emerge as the ‘next big thing’.
Unfortunately, for most of us, that’s about as far as it goes. With every step we take out of that inspirational talk, that ultimate goal slips further and further from our grasp. The more we focus on those grand ambitions, the harder it gets to imagine achieving them. The chasm between where we are and where we want to be is just too huge. Gradually, the dream fades and we settle back into the status quo.
After all, what you can’t imagine, you can’t achieve.
That’s where “Think Small” has to come in. The road to every grand design is paved with a series of small steps. Small, manageable and - above all - achievable stages.
You might dream of a fulfilling, harmonious home life. One free of petty squabbles about who didn’t change the loo roll, or how you’re going to pay the next pile of bills to drop into your letterbox. Clicking your heels together, a la Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz', is not going to make it happen. Transforming the everyday kitchen sink melodramas that populate our mundane lives into an oasis of serenity and warmth seems like Mission Impossible (cue music and Tom Cruise dangling from the ceiling). You cannot imagine it as achievable, so you give up.
But hold on. Rewind. Let’s take another look. Break it down into a series of small stages and maybe we can imagine achieving that coveted dream of a happy home life. Make a conscious decision not to go nuclear every time you reach for the toilet tissue to find the last visitor to the littlest room has left a single ineffectual sheet hanging sadly off the holder. Instead, plan ahead and make sure there is always a back-up of two or three rolls within arm’s reach.
When you want your teen to make their bed/do their homework/clear the table, resist the urge to screech like a banshee on speed. Instead, remind them calmly but firmly to do their bit (just be prepared to say it several times, preferably not through gritted teeth). Credit them with the maturity to make a useful contribution to the household.
And when the latest demand for your hard-earned cash lands on the doormat, don’t turn on your Other Half shouting accusations of profligacy, citing those new killer heels or that latest gadget as evidence. No-one reacts well to a harpy, and playing the victim just invites more abuse. Instead, take a deep breath, sit down and work out the solution. Together.
The same small stuff thinking applies to the world of work. If you dream of achieving something great in your professional life, don’t make a mental leap straight to the ultimate prize. You must have the vision, for sure, but if you don’t plot the steps that will get you there, you are doomed to disappointment.
Steve Jobs may have been one of those rare human beings to make huge mental leaps to something extraordinary, but even he took Apple through a series of steps that led to the must-have latest gadget to reshape our world. Back in the mid-90s, the company was in disarray and looked doomed to failure. Step by step, it was revamped, a new corporate vision was imagined and a series of small achievable stages were made to make it one of the world’s best-known brands. According to reports, Jobs’ legacy includes a list of thousands more innovations, yet more goals to be achieved after his demise.
So, next time you look up at your Grand Design and take a gulp of self-doubt, just stop and take a deep breath. Re-imagine it, with a pathway of small achievable steps that will eventually take you where you want to be.
Thursday, 17 November 2011
We’re always being urged to “Think Big”, to stretch our imaginations to see what is possible, to visualise what we want to (and can) become.
Friday, 4 November 2011
We all love a good stereotype, don’t we?
They serve as a kind of mental shorthand that save us the trouble of actually thinking or examining something before we make up our mind. They save time and effort, easily find supporters, and are an absolute Godsend for tabloid headline writers.
Trouble is, though there’s often a seed of truth in most stereotypes, the cliché rarely tells the whole story. Like a caricature, they simply zoom in on a single characteristic and magnify it so much that it eclipses every other feature.
I’ve been battling the clichéd ideas of many folk for years, especially since moving to
I do, however, like Marmite.
I am undeniably English in many ways. It’s a simple matter of fact. I’m me, I’m English, I’m happy with who I am but I have no reason to consider myself superior or inferior to anyone by virtue of my accident of birth.
I am not responsible for the highs and lows of my mother nation (Note the Greek friends: Blame Lord Elgin for the looted Marbles, not me!).
I have as much in common with David Cameron and the Milliband of Brothers as I do with a small furry creature from Outer Centauri.
Sad to say, elected representatives rarely mirror the lives and outlooks of the people who vote them in. They are almost always way more privileged than the hoi polloi they claim to represent. Many have never had a real job outside politics. Few have any real concept of the daily kitchen sink dramas that punctuate our mundane lives.
When I first arrived, Margaret Thatcher was still in residence at No.10 Downing Street (yes, I’ve been here THAT long) and the response of many when they learned where I’d arrived from was “Ah! Maggie Thatcher!” with varying degrees of admiration or disgust, depending on their political allegancies. Lord knows how much saliva I wasted trying in vain to explain just how NOT like the Iron Lady I was.
So, I have a vested interest in trying to smash clichés that inevitably raise their ugly heads.
Over the past few months, the Greeks have received a very, VERY bad press internationally. And this week, the actions of politicians have made them seem like Drama Queens of the worst kind.
But don’t fall into the cliché, I beg you. Contrary to the message perpetuated by headlines in publications like the Daily Mail, most Greeks are not lazy, dissolute, donkey jockeys who are good for nothing but a bit of local colour when you’re on your annual hols on one of their islands. Most are hard-working, highly educated, ambitious people who just want to pay their dues, raise their families and live a decent life.
Yes, there have been explosions of violence amid the mostly peaceful (if noisy) demonstrations outside Parliament. But can you honestly say they were more horrifying that the outbreaks of feral looting and destruction in
Yes, there is corruption and tax evasion. Isn’t there everywhere? Most Greeks DO pay their way – it’s the privileged few who have the influence and resources to wiggle their way out of their obligations that have landed the country in the current mess they’re in. Just think of the UK MPs’ expenses scandal – does that mean every Brit is a crook?
Yes, there has been endemic mismanagement of many elements of many aspects of Greek public life for years. But can you honestly say that everything where you live is run as it should be?
Yes, some Greeks are chancers who will take every chance to cheat the system or pull a fast one for financial gain. Have you forgotten good old Del Boy and his like, those lovable rogues that can be found on any
Despite our differences, there’s more that unites us than divides us.
So next time you see the bi-polar antics of
All they really want is to sit down and relax in the company of people they love, and perhaps share a laugh over a cup of coffee.
As for me, well when it comes to beverages I DO fit the cliché.
When the going gets tough, I put the kettle on.
Thursday, 3 November 2011
At least, they are if you define “interesting” as “unpredictable, subject to wild mood swings, uncertain and teetering of the brink of an abyss” rather than “engaging and worthy of further study”.
I guess there’s a reason why the phrase is considered a curse rather than a blessing.
Turmoil has been a key characteristic of life in Greece for at least a year now. Crippling austerity is being imposed on the majority of simple hard-working, working and middle class people, who are understandably peeved when they see the country’s fat cats continuing to enjoy most of the privileges that have contributed to the dire state of the national economy. The overpowering mood of the country is one of frustration, disillusionment and powerlessness in the face of the overwhelming odds that are casting a huge black cloud over everything.
So, you might think that some would welcome Prime Minister George Papandreou's announcement of a referendum to ask the Greek people to vote on whether they want the austerity measures.
If we were going to have a referendum, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to do so BEFORE the measures we’re to be asked about started raining down on the heads of common people? Or before extra funds were devoted to printing and sending out of demands for extra taxes to households around the country? Or before assuring our creditors that Greece is committed to the changes they demand to secure a bail-out?
If Angela Merkel and Nicola Sarkozy were gob-smacked by the Monday evening's bombshell, you should see how it hit us. The first reaction was disbelief and “What the ...?”.
Personally, I wonder if the PM simply had a brain fart.
I’m no political Svengali but from where I’m sitting the PM's apparent attempt to throw responsibility for the fate of the country to its people – basically telling them “give me the mandate or on your own heads be it” – looks like political suicide.
Maybe it’s all part of a complex conspiracy to destroy the Euro Zone or establish a New World Order? Who knows?
I do know is that these are the kind of interesting times I could do without.
All I can do is hang on and grit my teeth, along with everyone else, as history takes us on a crazy ride with an unknown destination. And as the autumn evenings close in on us, I’ll be curling up on my sofa (as long as it’s still mine), wrapped in an old blanket, sipping my tea and thinking about what soup I can make from the dregs at the bottom of my fridge.
Some don’t have it so good.
Sunday, 9 October 2011
Thursday, 6 October 2011
Friday, 30 September 2011
We need to have a good old sit-down and have the dreaded ‘Where are we going?’ talk. You’ve been toying with me for long enough. A girl wants to know where she stands, you know.
It’s the uncertainty I can’t stand. And boy, are you sending me mixed messages!
Earlier this year, you stubbornly refused to make an appearance a couple of months, and then just turned up unannounced whenever the mood took you until you got the subtle message from my snarly looks and barking retorts and settled back into our good old routine.
One minute, I’m breaking out in zits that would make a teen testosterone machine flinch and the next I’m slapping enough salves, soothes and ointments to sink an oil slick onto a mysterious patch of reptilian skin that appeared on my jaw line.
And enough already with the Winnie the Pooh mood swings! While I love bouncy, manic Tigger and the melancholy philosophy of Eeyore in equal measure, I’d quite like to have a few days where I get to be level-headed Kanga, sensible Christopher Robin, or even eternally optimistic Winnie (though we can give needy Piglet a miss, if that’s OK with you).
I’m sick of being reduced to a soggy blubbering pile of tears… by a cereal ad.
I get the message. A change is coming. I’ll be 47 in a couple of months. But we’ve been fine as we are, haven’t we? Quite frankly, I don’t have time for an upheaval right now, so if you don’t mind, can we just carry on as we were for a little while yet?
Go on. I’ll make it worth your while.
With love - or hate - or utter confusion,
Crazy-faced and sweat-bound of
I love you guys. You are consistently ‘Best in Class’ in my bod.
OK, so you’ve grown (who hasn’t?), and maybe you’re not quite a firm and perky as you used to be, but you’re still luscious and reliable (and believe me, that’s a rare trick to pull off!).
I feel I need to reward you somehow, just to show you how much I appreciate you. But sadly now is not a time for satin and lace, so let’s just hang on in with the clean cotton old faithful undies for now, OK?
Your loving owner.
What is it with you and me? I know you’re strong, I know you’re dependable, but would it hurt you to make a little effort to look nice now and then?
Yours, in eager anticipation of smooth, toned calves,
Madame Thunder Thighs.
You’re too hard on yourself, you know. I know you think you’re the one thing that keeps this whole shebang going (well, yes, actually you are) but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a wee break now and then.
It might even do you some good to switch off completely now and then – like when I'm desperately trying to get some shut-eye instead of staring into the darkness at 4am, or when we’re watching a Jennifer Aniston movie.
Really, your participation is not essential at times. Even Olympic athletes need a break now and then (and you’re no Math-lete, sunshine!).
Now and again you just have to take the advice of some tried and tested comedy catch-phrases.
“Don’t panic!” would be a good one right now.
The end of the world is not nigh, yet. And there’s still stuff to be enjoyed and appreciated before you have to say “So long and thanks for all the fish”.
Oh, and something else…
….don't forget to breathe!
Desperately seeking serenity,
A very non-Ohm 40-something.
You guys are awesome!
Whenever I start heading for meltdown, you’re there to listen to my silent screaming over the ether and to reach out with words of encouragement and optimism. I can almost feel the positive vibes flowing out of my laptop whenever I commit some of my angst to my blog.
This week, you came up trumps again. I had a moment where I flipped out, fearing the worst before it arrives at our doorstep. And yet, there you were, waiting to give me cyber cuddles and pats on the shoulder, boost my sagging ego and restore my default Pollyanna mode (without the annoying pigtails).
I've never met most of you, and probably never will, but I just want to reach my arms into the Internet and give you all a big, fat, grateful hug.
Thanks a zillion,
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Home is where the heart is. It’s where I hang my hat. It’s the people I love, not bricks and mortar.
All true…. BUT
When you are facing the very real possibility that the place you’ve scrimped, saved and sacrificed for may be wrenched from you, you can get seriously materialistic.
Our home is nice, but modest. It’s a two-bed flat with a spare room in a middle class suburb of
To get onto the Greek property ladder, we lived with my In-Laws for three years so we could save up the deposit (no 100% mortgages from Greek banks). So, when we finally moved in, it was with a feeling of excitement, satisfaction and belonging that we gradually furnished, painted and primped it to our taste.
We didn’t go for excesses. The house still has just one TV. Most of the furniture is from our friendly neighbourhood IKEA store. And most of the jobs in the place have been given the DIY treatment. Fancy brand-name clothes have been scorned, holidays not taken and left-overs have become a regular feature on our weekly family menu.
And yet, there is a real possibility that we might lose our home.
The Ovver Arf lost his job in February 2010, just as the Greek Economy was falling into a maelstrom leading to a black hole. Jobs are being cut, not created. My man swallowed his not inconsiderable Mediterranean male pride and tried to reconcile himself to swapping his Sales Director persona for an existence as a reluctant house husband – at least until he found another job.
At least I was still working, we told ourselves. Something will come up.
So far, it hasn’t. And as the Ovver Arf is now out of work for more than a year, he gets no welfare benefits from the State.
Meanwhile, our few savings and some help from generous family members helped us keep up with our mortgage payments for a while. But when your family income is slashed by more than half at a time when prices are rising and the Government imposes new taxes every day in a bid to appease the IMF and European Finance Ministers, the gap between ‘have’ and ‘need’ soon becomes a gaping chasm.
And now we face yet more ‘emergency taxes’ on my income and our home. The unemployed are not exempt, though the Church is.
With news of the Greek economy getting grimmer every day, we are facing the real possibility that we might lose our humble home. And that makes me want to sit tight, stroking the walls and hugging the furniture.
I’ve always been a home bunny, preferring to have friends round for a meal accompanied by a bottle of plonk and few laughs to a fancy night out at a swank nightclub. But now, I just want to stay snuggled up on our (slightly worn) sofa.
If the worst does come to the worse, we WILL manage somehow – even if it means moving back in with the In-Laws.
Our family will stay together.
Our heart will find a home with each other.
Our home has always been full of love and laughter, food and friends, and it’s become a regular haunt for our teenage son’s army of friends. It can be noisy and is often messy. But I’m proud of it. I love it. I don’t want to lose it.
So, if there is someone or something out there that can talk the Universe into giving us a break just big enough to keep it, I would really REALLY appreciate it.
[This post was inspired by The Gallery - for more home-inspired blogs, click below]
Friday, 16 September 2011
So this week, they’re finally back where they should be.
After THREE WHOLE MONTHS off (you hear that, Brit Mums who tear their hair out at the thought of 6 weeks of summer hols?), Greek schoolkids returned to their classrooms this week.
Well, sort of.
Sure, they’re turning up at the school gate at 8am and reporting for registration. But that’s about the size of it. Some lessons have started – the ManChild has had homework for Maths, Ancient Greek and Biology so far – but it’s without the benefit of text books.
Yes, dear reader, you heard me right.
For, as the Ministry of Education announced when the long Greek summer drew to a close, the school books are not ready to be distributed to pupils in September. And if what the school told our son this week is true, they won’t be until Christmas.
So, that means three months of lessons without text books then?
Alrighty. Cue a load of grinning kids. And an army of anxious adults.
The good news is that the material IS available on a CD which the kids have been given to upload to their computers. But even if every Greek household had a PC (they don’t), the success of this Plan B depends largely on the ability and willingness of the teaching staff to use virtual teaching materials.
I, for one, have my doubts.
Much as I revere and admire the best of the teaching profession (and I really do, believe me), the truth is that it contains at least as many lumps of coal as it does diamonds. And in
Two years ago, amid much glorious fanfare, it was announced that all children entering their first year of Lower High School would be given a notebook PC, which would be loaded up with the teaching materials for the three years to see them through to the start of Upper High School. My son was one of those to benefit from this Brave New World initiative.
Great! You might say (as indeed, did I). Now, that’s progress.
Only it wasn’t. Most teachers spurned the online teaching material and just carried on doing what they’d always done. I think the only lesson my son used the virtual textbook for was…. (wait for it)….. History. Everything else was taught from the book, in the old school fashion - including Technology.
In the end, a year of High School students were given a free PC on which to play online games and up-date their FaceBook status. OK, as a result they’re all much more Internet-savvy – an essential for whatever future awaits them, I suppose – but not much cop in terms of schoolwork.
The following year, the programme was discontinued and no more notebooks were issued to the nation’s 12 & 13-year-olds.
OK, so the credit crunch and the agonising bite of the crisis probably would have put paid to it anyway. BUT even the kids who got their free notebooks haven’t seen the educational benefit – cos most teachers simply didn’t put it into action...
...and now it’s just a matter of time before the strikes start.
Things are better in the paid education sector – hardly surprising, when there’s a profit to be made. In Greece, like it or not, every family pays for at least part of their kids’ education, even if they attend State school, for the frontistirio (evening school) is as much a part of Greek life as ouzo and the Acropolis.
This week, after-hours English lessons started with a vengeance, rapidly draining parents’ pockets of hard-earned dosh to pay annual registration fees, monthly tutorage and the cost of the hugely over-priced text books (75 Euros for two books? Are you kidding me? One is less than a quarter-inch thick and a state curriculum tome of the same size would cost a tenth of the price. Gee, don’t you just love a monopoly?).
We also have to cough up for music lessons, any extra-curricular sports the ManChild will dive into - and now he’s asking about Spanish lessons.
So, yes, school’s in. But don’t worry. The kids are alright.
It’s the parents I worry about.
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
Do I have to choose between a sensible but severe bob, or a weekly set at the local salon?
Do I have to hand in my preferred sci-fi and thriller reading and reach for the more suitable and escapist pages of the 21st century answer to Mills & Boon - or simply give up on books and start studying knitting patterns in "Woman's Own"?
Sounds like WAY too much work for me - and, in its extreme, it smacks slightly of desperation.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Yes, I want to be read, commented on, admired and adulated (hey, who doesn't?), but more than anything, it's a way of sharing myself with people, airing my cobwebby grey matter, and occasionally sourcing the wisdom of the (admittedly small) crowd of people who might read it.
Sunday, 14 August 2011
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
It was also at the heart of much of our childhood joy, the basic element of much of our play - and our occasional downfall when a puddle proved deeper than we thought or a lakeside footpath more slippery than it looked.
No sunny day in June was complete without an inpromptu water fight with the garden hose when you're supposed to be saving Dad's hydraengas and snapdragons from dehydration (the best part was putting your thumb over the end of the hose to produce and fine but powerful spray, then aim it skywards and delight in your own man-made shower surrounded by a million mini-rainbows).
Exploring the woods felt so much closer to a Famous Five adventure (Gawd bless dear old Enid Blyton - she hasn't aged well, as I found out when I started reading her to my young son) when there was a stream to ford, bridge or flop about in.
Even on the rawest of winter days, we would gather together all those rock-hard discarded bread crusts and nag Mum or Dad until they agreed to take us to The Priory in Reigate or Tilgate Park near Crawley.
It was cheap, simple, outdoors and we loved it.
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
When I see you running rampage, faces covered to fool the CCTV, destroying your own communities, attacking fire crews, journalists and innocent by-standers, smashing family businesses, burning cars, buses, shops and homes, and raiding big brand name stores for designer sports wear, high tech plasma TV screens and the latest must-have Smart Phones and apps, I'm sure the cause is nothing more than good old fashioned greed and an utter lack of respect for the society you live in.
But as I'm not, all I can do is encourage others to follow you on http://www.riotcleanup.co.uk , @riotcleanup and www.facebook.com/riotcleanup
Didn't you know that these past few days, more than ever, London has been absolutely "where it's at"?
Sunday, 31 July 2011
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Unless you’ve been living on the dark side of a small sub-planet in the quietest corner of Alpha Centauri, you can’t fail to have heard about
So, you’ve made it to the city that gave birth to democracy more than 2,000 years ago. That in itself is a good start. It means that no air traffic controllers, port workers or other disgruntled group has conspired to prevent your arrival. Welcome!
Looking around, you may be a little surprised. The news headlines have prepared you for a city in uproar, pulsating with protestors and police, and a country crippled by constant strikes. Instead, the scents of souvlaki and jasmine on balconies are stronger than any residual whiff of tear gas. The trains, buses and trams are filled with Athenians on their way to work every morning. Folk in shops still smile and are as hospitable as ever.
Greek society has not imploded. Life goes on.
Industrial action and noisy protests have featured strongly on
Locals take it all in their stride, and use their wits to make a mere inconvenience from what some might consider a disaster. So, here are some tips on how to minimise the impact of any strikes during your visit.
A little bit of knowledge can save a whole day of heartache. Most strikes are announced in advance. In addition to TV and radio news, many Athenians rely on Greek-language websites like apergies.gr for regular updates, and reliable English information can also be found online. Check out livingingreece.gr/strikes or the English pages of Greek daily newspapers like www.ekathimerini.com.
If you are staying at a hotel, just ask the front desk staff about any strikes that might disrupt your plans.
Avoid hot spots
The angry riots that have filled the world’s TV screens are the exception, not the rule, and are generally limited to a few key ignition points. The whole city is not in turmoil when BBC or CNN show protesters hurling stones and street furniture at riot police lined up in front of parliament. Just a few blocks away, it’s business as usual with people serenely sipping coffee and reading the paper in street cafes.
The main hot spot to avoid when outrage is in the air is Syntagma Square - the front yard of Greece’s Parliament, and where the ‘Indignados of Athens’ have gathered in mostly peaceful protest since late May. It has also been the scene of occasional clashes with police when a small minority gets physical.
Staff at your hotel should be able to give you an idea of what areas to avoid.
Flexibility is key. When a strike scuppers your plans, consider the alternatives.
If you turn up at the Metro station to find the shutters rolled down, think about taking the bus or tram instead, as it is rare for the entire public transport network to be closed at the same time. The Athens Urban Transport Organisation (OASA) website – http://www.oasa.gr – has information in Greek and English.
If you do find yourself stuck in the centre, take to the streets.
If you arrive at
But if you’re an adrenaline junkie who’s been lured to
That’s one sure-fire way to experience Greek passion first hand.
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
Smell. It’s the poor relative of the five senses, yet perhaps the most evocative. Few of us think about it, but our lives would be so much poorer without it.
Just a whiff of tomato plants immediately transports me back to the greenhouses of my English childhood, where the glass panes entrapped the giddy scent of the vines and their rapidly ripening red fruits. The scent of fresh sawdust and wet mortar whips me down a wormhole to days spent playing around one of the building sites where my master-builder Grandad and his gang were hard at work. And the sweet smell of baby shampoo takes me back to the first days of my teenage son’s life, when I used to love to sniff the freshly-washed blonde fluff on his head after his evening bath.
I really only started to appreciate my sense of smell when I quit smoking five years ago. Along with the frayed nerves and flu-like symptoms of the first month of withdrawal from the devil weed, I noticed something much nicer…
…I could SMELL EVERYTHING!
It was as if the tiny hairs and receptors in my nostrils had been plunged into the deep freeze for a couple of decades, only to be slowly awoken in the ‘bain Marie’ of my newly smoke-free status. Within the first fortnight, I knew the minute I walked into the house that we had left an overnight mosquito-repellent tablet plugged in all day. I became an aroma junkie, obsessively breathing in the scent of fruit and veg at the grocers before selecting them – and summarily rejecting anything that smelt of nothing. I was even caught on a couple of occasions sniffing close friends and family.
The stages of most lives can be characterised by distinctive scents. So here are my seven ages of smell:
Fresh-mown grass, bicycle chain grease, mud after a downpour, Dad’s aftershave, Sunday roasts, the cloud of hairspray and perfume at Mum’s dressing table, allergy cream, a sponge cake cooling in the kitchen, the delicate aroma of Nana’s rouge and lipstick when I gave her a kiss, orange squash lollies from the cavernous freezer, Matey bubble bath, the earthy scent of a cuddle with Grandad after a day in the garden, freshly-baked shortbread, the summer stink that wafted across the fields when farmers sprayed with fertilizer, pencil shavings, blood, Dettol and apples.
“Charlie” perfume, Indian ink, the chemical sharp edge of Sun-In hair lightener, greasy lipsticks left on the windowsill, wet schoolbooks, stale cigarette smoke on friends’ clothes, joss sticks, that ‘old man’ smell that refused to leave the army coats we bought from charity shops, second-hand books, Juicy Fruit chewing gum, dried watercolours, a new sketchpad, stinky hair-removing cream and far too much deodorant.
Carbon paper, alcohol, the first whiff of a lit cigarette, hot metal and ink from a printing press, paper dust, the marigold-reminiscent scent of petrol, facemasks, hair mousse, my first culinary experiments with soy sauce or oregano, garlic bread, wet hair, the summer reminder of that bottle of milk that spilled in my first car, vodka & orange and “Rive Gauche”.
Scented candles, pretentious dinner party menus, newsprint in bed, ground coffee, the musky scent at the nape of his neck, red wine, sausages burning on the barby, his aftershave, fry-up breakfasts on Sunday mornings, someone else’s sweat, the comforting scent of his favourite t-shirt (the one you wear to bed when he’s away) and his & hers “Bulgari”.
The unbeatable aroma of a new-born’s tummy, heavy nappies, washing powder, regurgitated milk, Sudocream, boiling water to sterilize bottles and dummies, that unmistakable “I’m cooking up something in my nappy” scent wafting from the cot (usually accompanied by a knowing grin), infant’s hair, Johnson’s baby powder, Dettol, burps and pureed carrot.
Home baked bread, the whiff of over-heated electric cables, anti-acid tablets, moisturising cream, herbal tea, jam, eye gel for those pesky bags, tiger balm, saffron rice, damp laundry under a hot iron, foot lotion, the smell of fellow passengers on public transport and lavender plants.
Who knows? It’s yet to come… ...but I supect it will include scents from all the previous ages. Not least Dettol, old books, favourite t-shirts, baby powder, moisturizing cream and anti-acid. But hopefully there will also be the scents of newborn grandchildren, fresh baked shortbread and tea too.
Tea, after all, is the scent for all ages.
Friday, 8 July 2011
Dear Greek countryside,
Whoever said you were quiet and peaceful? Well, whoever it was, they were wrong.
Isn’t enough that I was rudely awoken by the rattling cry of a hooligan magpie and the sclatter of battling cats outside my bedroom door at 6 this morning?
But I’m an optimist and try to be philosophical about things, so I got up, grabbed my laptop and headed for the balcony to make an early start on work, surrounded by your early morning bounty.
All was well…. ‘til I settled down with my cup of Greek coffee (the type you have to sip slowly over a couple of hours if you don’t want a choking mouthful of coffee grounds) and starting reading my first emails. Serenity reigned (due in part to assorted family members we share this country hide-away with still snoozing gently) and I was ready for my morning productivity surge.
But then, just as I started going through with the latest magazine proof with a proverbial nit-comb, all hell broke loose!
The local cicadas woke up, en masse, with a sudden onslaught of synchronised chirping from the pine trees all around. We’re not talking a gentle chirruping here, we’re talking high octane, high decibel rhythmic waves of noise. Though weird looking, cicadas are harmless and strangely wonderful – especially when you learn the story of their life – but boy do they make a racket! They must be the metal heads of the insect world.
And if that wasn’t enough, the panic-stricken wood doves then decided to join in the cacophony. We’re not talking the gentle cooing that punctuated the more idyllic summer days of my English childhood – these are pigeons with attitude. Their cry is an aggressive reminder of their presence, probably tinged with the angst about
And another thing, how’s a girl to concentrate of the finer details of document when there’s the sight of a pine-covered hillside rolling down to the sea to distract her?
But you know me. I’m a trooper and I’ll battle through, despite your attempts to lure me away from my Protestant Work Ethic.
Until, at least, our date on the beach at the end of the day.
In eager anticipation – cos you know I love ya!
Thanks so much for the cup of coffee. I appreciate it, I really do.
But please understand that when I'm trying to work, I can’t sit and chat about the latest exploits of Kyria Mina’s daughter’s next-door-neighbour or the intricacies of the best pasta flora recipe.
I know you’re pleased to see me after so many days. I’m delighted that we get on just fine, but please try to understand that although I am physically in front of you on your balcony, in every other sense I am somewhere else.
The last thing I need when I’m trying to argue my case with a colleague in
Your (mostly) dutiful but slightly off-centre English Daughter-in-Law.
Dear Battling Neighbours,
You really need to chill out.
Don't you know that so much anger is bad for you?
I've been listening to your screeched exchanges of "Go to hell", "Get out of my face", and much worse since the early hours - and I'm pretty sure that all the houses within a square kilometre know that you are definitely not the best of pals.
But please, can't you just put your border disputes and screaming matches to one side, and simply enjoy being here?
Don't make me come down there, alright?
You may not know this, but hell hath no fury like a middle-aged Englishwoman whose peace has been shattered by someone else's all-too-public arguments.
Dear Battling Neighbours,
The "Anglida nyfi ths Kyrias Renas".
I really don’t have time for this, you know. You’re old enough to work things out for yourselves and I really shouldn’t have to play referee to your cousinly squabbles.
And for the last time, switch off the ******* Play Station and get outside to get some fresh air!
Your loving mother and auntie.
If I called you a beach, I hope you won’t be offended.
I know I haven’t been round to see you enough – it’s been WAY too long. But I’ll be there soon. Just save a spot in the shade for me to hide my pallid, puffed-up bod after a much-deserved dip in the briny.
I know I'm not at the office today, but believe me I'm hard at work. In fact I bet I sent my first email before you had your breakfast. Honest!
Your humble servant - remotely but nonetheless professionally.
Friday, 1 July 2011
Dear People of Greece,