Wednesday, 15 December 2010

All I want for Christmas is...

...the chance to let out this breath I've been holding since January.

It's been a bit of year for us here at SMW Towers - just like it has been for so many round the world - and I'm trying very hard to be positive about 2011 (though I'll confess I struggle at times).

2010 started off well enough, with a New Year trip to the Mandi Mum in the UK, unexpectedly extended by a few days when Mother Nature decided to dump an unusual amount of snow on the south-east of England, closing Gatwick Airport. That meant we got to shovel snow, build snowmen and miss a few days of school and work. All in all, something we could deal with.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, that was the high point of the year.

Less than a month later, we got the news that the Ovver Arf was out of a job (in possibly the worst time in the past half-century to be looking for work in Greece). Then, some kindly pickpocket decided to relieve me of my purse (containing passport, credit cards, etc.) on the crowded train home from work one rainy March evening (Lessons learned? Carry as little as possible. And trust no-one).

My beloved Nana died just before her 100th birthday in June, and my brilliant tough cookie of a mother was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma (which, thankfully, has stayed under control so far - largely due to her positive attitude, healthy lifestyle and sheer grit).

As the end of the year approaches, we have managed to stay afloat - just - thanks largely to the help and support of our families, both back in Blighty and here in Greece.

But the stress has never really gone away.
Even at our most light-hearted times, when we're laughing at some random silliness or bathing in the warmth of the love and affection from those we cherish, it's there in the background. It sits there like a heavy weight in the pit of our stomach, gnawing away at our sleep and fraying our nerves in our waking hours.

The possibility of losing everything we have worked so hard for all these years - despite me thankfully still having a pretty good job - just doesn't go away.

We have tried very hard to protect Kidling Grand from the immediate impact. Of course, he knows things are tough and that we have had to cut back severely, but we have tried to keep the worst of it from him.

Part of me has tried to work at everything extra hard, in the hope that I can save everything.
I log-in every evening, weekend and holiday to my email to make sure I'm not missing a trick for work or the possibility of earning a few extra Euros with some proof-reading or translation.
Not a single piece of veg languishing at the bottom of the fridge has gone in the bin where a soup pan could welcome it, and I've started baking our own bread each weekend.
There's a part of me that believes that if I try really, REALLY hard, I can save the world - or at least our little corner of it.

Meanwhile, life just keep getting more expensive here in Greece. A standard weekly shop for the basics from the supermarket, without meat, rarely comes in under 70 Euros. Petrol is now heading towards 1.60 a litre. And all the household bills are heading ever upwards. Things will get even worse in the months to come. Tickets for public transit are about to go up 30%, VAT on everything will rise 2% to 13% from 1 January, and 2011 will bring more measures which will force ordinary working bods to pay the price for the mess Greece got itself into after generations of mis-management and evasion by those who could get away with it.

I try hard not to be a Moaning Minnie - weeping and wailing about our fate achieves nothing. And I know that there are many others much worse-off than us. But there are times when I just have to let it all out.

This month, on top of all the usual expenses and winter extras, we have the cost of Christmas to meet (severely cut back this year), car tax for the entire year which have to be paid by the last day of the year (amounting to several hundreds) - and my vehicle insurance to cough up for.

And now we have to find the means to fix our tiled loungue floor, after it decided to rise up (literally) in revolt on Friday night, a few hours after we had finally given in and put the heating on for the first time.
The result was my poor Ovver Arf kneeling on the floor staring in tiles that had lifted up like a mini-tsunami, almost in tears of frustration, and me losing a few more nights' sleep and offering up a plea to the Universe to PLEASE just give us a break.

We'll muddle through - one way or another - and we'll make the sacrifices we have to. We know that compared to many, we still rank among the lucky ones. We appreciate the good things we have and - despite a few fraught moments - we have managed to keep our relationship on an even keel (if anything, it's stronger than ever). We know we're blessed with terrific family, friends and each other.

We have been good - really good - all year. I think we deserve a place on Santa's "Nice" list. But we don't want fancy wrapped gifts or glitter-filled festivities.

No, all I want for Christmas is a little peace of mind.


(Apologies to you all for the whinging nature of this post. Normal service with all its random witterings will return shortly.)


  1. Make no apologies for what is an absolutely necessary purging of your feelings. I wish you joy, peace, and rays of sunshine in the New Year: LOTS of them.

    Consider the old joke with the millionaire and his two sons. The millionaire decides that instead of simply handing over an inheritance, he will make his sons work for it and understand the graft he went through to get to his comfortable position in life. He sets them both to work in separate stables, and within ten minutes, the eldest son starts complaining and moaning that his hands hurt and he's dirty and why should he be working when he was born to privilege.

    The younger son, on the other hand, cheerfully works away, shovelling manure and whistling. The father takes him to one side and asks him why, despite his monied upbringing, he is so happy to be doing such filthy menial work.

    "Well," replies the son. "I figured with all this shit, there just HAS to be a pony somewhere!"

    There's a pony in there for you guys, just you wait and see. xx

  2. i hope you manage to have a peaceful time this Christmas and that things do start to look up in 2011

  3. Anonymous = Halina

    No apologies needed Mandi, it's good to let off steam and I hope Santa is listening and that 2011 will bring you the peace of mind you want/need/deserve.

    Recently, when I was lamenting yet another catastrophe which had befallen me, a friend of mine told me it was my own fault and that I should be glad. Taken aback I asked why and was told 'because you're alive'. As long as we are alive, shit will happen. And as long as we have our health and the support of family and friends we can get through these things and come out stronger, for which we should rejoice.

    My wise friend also told me that peace of mind is also knowing that life will probably give us more lows than highs (especially as we tend to have such high expectations of what life should be serving up to us) and if we can accept that, it'll be easier to tackle each problem as just another bump along the road of life.

    So I pass on this wisdom to you, Mandi, even though I know I'm preaching to the choir. There will always be hurdles to get over so look life in the face and yell, scream, cry and know that whatever it throws at you, you can get through it with the love and support of your family and a little bit of help from your friends, even if it's just a cyber shoulder to cry on.

    Life has it's bright spots, so keep you chin up and don't lose your sense of humour which will help get you through the worst times - until that next bright spot, which just might be waiting for you around the next corner.

    Wishing a Happy 2011 to you and yours Mandi


  4. Just keep your chin mands, think where me and nigel were last year and it is getting better for us. Nikos will get something soon I know. As for mum and Nana, yes it will be hard not to have nana here for christmas, I miss her so much strange as it might seem, she was my friend as well as my nana. Mum, well I was with her for her hospital appointment and they were so positive about her so that is the best present ever. I know life is shit at the moment, but it will get better, Nigel and I are proof of it! 20 years ago we lost everything but we had each other and the kids and that is the most priceless thing. Love you loads sis x x

  5. Don't feel you have to apologise for a rant on your own entirely understandable rant at that....I do so hope that 2011 will be a better brighter year for you....I'm sending you a wish of Christmas magic... Chin up...

  6. I hope you get a big bag of peace of mind from Santa - sounds like you should be top of his list.

  7. Have a wonderful 2011 with lots of good luck!

  8. You really are a lovely lot, you know that?

    Thanks to you all - and I hope Santa Claus and 2011 brings you all whatever your hearts desire.

    Cyber hugs & kisses,
    Mandi. xxxx