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Beautiful Naxos

We went back to the Greek island of Naxos this summer and it was just as beautiful as we remembered. We stayed in the beach resort of Plaka again and with its white sand, crystal clear waters and local tavernas set just back from the beach, it’s no wonder that Naxos really has become our happy place.

The island is set in the South Aegean and is the largest of the Cyclades group, however, it is not the most straightforward place to get to. This year, we flew from London to Mykonos and then took a boat to Naxos. Our route was planned, our tickets booked months in advance and we had arranged to meet friends for dinner on the beach later that afternoon so, of course, our flight was delayed. Best laid plans and all that…

After circling Mykonos for a while, we finally landed with 1-hour to spare before our connecting boat was due to depart. As we stood in the queue at passport control I could feel the Greek God(zilla) getting a bit twitchy, but occasionally he does come in VERY handy as after a quick word in Greek to a local security guard, we were being ushered to the front of the queue. Once officially through the gate, we raced to baggage claim just as our suitcases were being loaded onto the belt and so while I grabbed a trolley, the Greek God(zilla) retrieved the cases. We legged it out of the airport terminal to the nearest taxi rank only to discover another long queue and not a single Greek taxi driver to sweet-talk in sight.

“Wait here” instructed the Greek God(zilla) as he took control and went off in search of an available vehicle. He returned a few minutes later having found a bus that could take us to the harbour. We hurried over to the bus stop with our cases side-wheeling behind us, but the bus wasn’t leaving for 30 minutes and our boat was departing in 25. So, back to the taxi rank we charged and joined the back of an even longer queue at which point, Zee (a new name for the 8-year old that I am trying out on the blog) could take the nail biting tension no more and burst into tears. The Greek God(zilla) disappeared again while I comforted Zee with promises of an ice-cream and my iPhone.

We hadn’t even fired up the Minecraft app when the Greek God(zilla) started calling us over from across the street. Before we knew it, we were clambering inside an unknown man’s car, who the Greek God(zilla) had paid €20 to get us to the boat on time! There was not a moment to debate the potential ramifications of this as, before our seatbelts had even clicked, we were weaving in and out of the local traffic with only 10-minutes to board. The driver pulled up as close to the boat as he could and the Greek God(zilla) made a run for it with Zee while I dragged our cases in a clumsy jog behind them.

I was literally hauling the last case up onto the plank as they started to raise the anchor. Zee and I couldn’t stop high-fiving the Greek God(zilla) and his chest swelled with pride at all the praise we were bestowing upon him. We celebrated our race against the clock with a round of ice-cold water and a rewarding beer for our hero!

We disembarked on the beautiful island of Naxos 40-minutes later feeling calm, hydrated and happy.

In plenty of time to meet our friends for a sundowner on the beach…

Splashed in the sea…

Enjoyed the local nightlife…

Caught up on our reading…

Took in the view from the local tavernas…

And, watched the sun set over the neighbouring island of Paros…

It was another magical week and we were so sad when it was time to say goodbye, but Crete was calling.

Island hopper

Although, not before we booked ourselves in again for the same time next year!

Until then, beautiful Naxos.

Ugly

When I was a teenager, or perhaps even in my early twenties, I was invited to a friend’s house party on a Saturday night, as was quite the norm back then. This was before ‘house’ was used to describe a style of music played loudly by DJs in clubs and instead it usually meant your friend’s parents were away and you were being invited over to help empty the family booze cabinet. Music – unless you were lucky enough to be mates with a budding DJ with his/her own set of decks – would play from a home stereo, or we’d just listen to the radio at full volume.

I attended many of these parties in the first 5/6 years or so after I left school and they were all pretty much the same. We’d drink cheap white wine and dance to Duran Duran, Ace of Bass and Oasis. Sometimes, we’d get off with a boy we fancied in the corner, or sometimes the boy we fancied got off with someone else in the corner and we’d go home brokenhearted. Anyway, this particular night started out no differently. The usual crowd was in attendance, mostly people I had known since school, and we were all probably drinking Malibu & coke, Archers & lemonade, or anything else that we could get our hands on before starting on the Lambrini.

It was still quite early on in the evening. I remember this as we were all still leaning against a wall sipping our drinks and not spilling them over the carpet as we waved our arms in the air to Wonderwall. So there I was, quietly hanging out with a friend and wondering if and when the boys standing on the other side of the room would make their way over to us. We’d been friendly with them for a while and I’d drunkenly snogged one of them a few weeks before. I definitely fancied him, but I wasn’t sure if he felt the same way so I was playing it cool and waiting for him to speak to me first. I was also much shyer back in those days and would never have had the confidence to approach a group of boys on my own, no matter how well I knew them.

Anyway, the song finished and as this was a time before iPods and shuffle, the host had to physically walk over to the stereo to change the music, which was not easy in the dark so someone helpfully switched on the living room light. It was then that my eyes drifted casually over to the boys and the one that I liked locked eyes with me and in his loudest, cruellest voice said: “FUCK ME, YOU’RE UGLY!”

The room fell quiet. Nobody said a word. Everyone just looked at their feet and shuffled until someone had the good sense, or kindness of heart, to turn the music back on and switch off the light. I didn’t make a scene or burst into tears and run out of the room – I was stronger than that – but I have never forgotten that moment. I don’t think about it every day or obsess over it at all, but every now and again it pops into my mind.

Today was one of those days as I watched a clip of Pink’s emotional speech at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards, which she dedicated to her young daughter. Pink’s beautiful 6-year old girl recently said she thought of herself as the ugliest girl she knew and “like a boy with long hair”. As heartbreaking as this must have been for Pink, she used the stage to send a very important message about self acceptance as she recalled “I went home and made a Powerpoint presentation for her daughter of androgynous rock stars and artists that live their truth, are probably made fun of every day of their life, and carry on, wave their flag and inspire the rest of us.”

Where was Pink when I needed her in the early 90s?! I’d be lying if I said that I brushed off the ugly comment when it was directed at me all those years ago but, sadly, I believed it to be true for many years. It was much later – when I had grown into myself more and accepted all of my imperfections and flaws (I wrote a post about that here) – that I stopped comparing myself to other people. I know I am no Gigi, but overall I am happy with how I look and more importantly, with who I am.

Besides, I now realise that the comment said more about the little toe-rag than it ever did about me.

As Pink herself said “We don’t change, we take the gravel and the shell and we make a pearl. We help other people to change so that they can see more kinds of beauty.”

That’s the kind of positive message I’d like to pass on to my own son.

Back to Basics

I’ve been thinking about this blog a lot recently. It has been woefully neglected this year and while part of the reason for this is because my attentions have been elsewhere – dips, work and various home improvement projects – I have also lost my way with blogging a little bit.

When I first started writing Grenglish it was as a way to record stories from my son’s early years that I could eventually print out for him to keep. After a while, I found a community of other parents doing the same thing and we all supported each other, commented on and shared each other’s ramblings. At some point, I became a ‘blogger’ and all that entailed. I was writing sponsored posts – not loads – but a few here and there to support my accessories habit. I attended blogging events and was even shortlisted for a couple of blogging awards. I turned my hobby into something more and I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that blogging has changed my life in so many positive ways. But, I sensed the online environment in which I had once felt so at home begin to change and I was out of my depth.

People were filming segments of their day and sharing stories with tens of thousands of people via Instagram, Facebook and something called Snapchat that I have still never managed to get my head around, while my page views were rapidly diminishing (I am, however, still incredibly grateful to the 35 people who checked in to read my last post). Where my news feed was once full of new blog posts to read, it now streams live videos. Don’t get me wrong, some of the videos are hugely entertaining and fun to watch but, I prefer to tell my stories in the written word.

I enjoy social media, but I couldn’t keep up with – or perhaps did not have enough inclination to try – all the other stuff that I felt I needed to embrace in order to become a successful blogger. Eventually, I suppose my initial enthusiasm for ‘blogging’ fizzled out.

It has been almost 6-months since my last blog post, although many have been composed in my head since then, and I have missed keeping this space updated. The break has given me ample time and opportunity to think about where I want to take it and in fact, whether I actually want to continue writing it at all.

I think I do.

I love writing about my little family and I hope that my son will enjoy reading it just as much when he is older. I have realised what I don’t enjoy doing, is promoting it. This blog was never a business to me and I was never really cut out to be a social media influencer. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m taking Grenglish back to basics. I will blog only when I have something to say and not to a schedule. I no longer want to confuse myself with SEO, rankings or algorithmy thingys. Social media is a brilliant way to connect with others so I will continue to share posts, but I am not going to start filming my entire day (no offence to those who do, I love watching!). I have no interest in trying to create noise on here, I want to create something I love and can feel proud of. Maybe some recognition will follow, but if no-one ever reads my musings again, then so be it.

Saying that, I’d really love you to stick around.

The End of Dry January

I’d never considered giving Dry January a go before, but this year I couldn’t wait to get started. Maybe it was because we got stuck into the Christmas spirit a little earlier than usual, or just that my body – now in its forth decade – has finally accepted its limits and was begging for a month off the Prosecco. Either way, I was in the zone and ready to be alcohol free for 30-days!

I didn’t do anything to prepare myself for the long weeks ahead. I did not banish wine from the house or pour good bottles of Chablis down the sink. I left everything exactly the way it was.

Everyone told me that the first few days would be the hardest, but they passed without so much as a flicker at the wine rack. We had people over for drinks and I happily filled their glasses with wine while I sipped on my fizzy water. I went to my brother’s birthday lunch and we all had a nice cup of tea! I even enjoyed a sober night out in Chelsea.

Not only was Dry Jan not a struggle in the slightest, but I actually rather enjoyed it.

I went to bed early every night with my kindle for company and woke up 11-hours later, feeling rested and ready to tackle the day. All those extra hours I had wished for a month before just miraculously appeared; and my never ending to-do list shrunk to manageable bullet points while I cracked on doing stuff. It would seem I am much more productive when I am not tired or hungover!

I thought I would be glugging straight from the bottle when January finally came to a close, but I felt like I could go even longer without booze. In fact, I think I will miss being dry more than I missed the wine.

The Courgette

While many couples may get into a debate over whose turn it is to have control of the remote, go out on a Friday night or sleep in on a Sunday morning, it is more unusual for a couple to argue over who gets to do the supermarket shop. Yet, this is the predicament I have recently found myself in.

When the Greek God(zilla) and I were both working full-time, the weekly food shop was something that we did online and it was delivered on Saturday mornings. When I left my office job and started working from home, I suddenly had much more time to wander the supermarket aisles in search of good deals. This was usually on a Wednesday when I wanted to avoid our cleaner so that she wouldn’t judge me for being at home all day while she scrubbed my toilet.

I got into a routine and it worked really well for us. I would menu plan in advance and add ingredients to a running shopping list. When we were close to running out of something I would add said item to the list so that I’d remember to buy it on my next visit and we would never be caught short without loo roll, kitchen foil, or wine.

I really enjoyed choosing my own fruit and vegetables and selecting meats with the longest use-by date so that I wouldn’t need to put them straight into the freezer. I also started buying kitchen essentials at the supermarket such as measuring jugs, Tupperware, tea towels and stemless wine glasses. I would run my hands over cushions and throws as I passed them in the homeware aisles and they would sometimes find their way into my shopping trolley too. After a while, the weekly supermarket visit was something I looked forward to. My Wednesdays were sorted!

But then work got busier – much busier – and I no longer had as much time to devote to my favourite pastime. The Greek God(zilla) was also adamant that he could do the food shop for less.

This is absolute rubbish by the way. On the occasions he did do the shop, he returned with tubs of houmous (hello, I think you might know someone in the HOMEMADE houmous business?!), nuts, crisps, beer, wine and several packets of pork chops (for the freezer) and spent about £40 more than I ever did. There was also not a complete meal to be found.

He reluctantly handed the trolley reins back to me, but recently when another big supermarket started sending him money off vouchers for £20-£30 a shop, it made sense for us to use them – on the strict proviso that he stuck to the shopping list and didn’t go rogue in the dips aisle.

Well, it has been an interesting experiment, to say the least. He takes the shopping list out with him, but casually edits it on his way round depending on what his taste buds are calling out for. So, nuts and crisps (not on the list) still make it home, but things like avocados and mushrooms don’t because he doesn’t like them. Just last week, we had a row over a courgette. Yep, A COURGETTE. A fine vegetable for bulking out a ratatouille and spiralizing to have instead of spaghetti.

It all started because the week before I had thrown half a courgette away. I can’t remember why we didn’t eat as much courgette that particular week, but the Greek God(zilla) refused to buy another because “you never eat them, love”.

I argued my case for the courgette for 10-minutes. I described the delicious meals I planned to make with it. I explained how versatile a vegetable it was and how it went with everything. I pleaded with him not to leave me courgetteless for a whole week, but it fell on deaf ears.

He didn’t buy the courgette.

I am a great believer in picking your battles so we are still on speaking terms, but IT’S A COURGETTE. A COURGETTE!

I bought my own courgette in the end and made a very tasty briam (Greek roasted vegetables) while he was away. However, this week I suspect I will mostly be making healthy fruit salads before he takes umbrage with the humble banana.