29 July 2009

Mamma mia

The washing's been done, the cases unpacked, the photos stored on computer, the memories put to bed. We are back home again, though I so wish we were still there.

Oh what a lovely holiday we had. Just a week. A mere seven days, but it was heaven on earth. Endless blue skies, calm turquoise seas, clusters of white villas dotted all over the landscape and temperatures of 46 degrees centigrade or 115 fahrenheit!! That last bit was a bit of a killer, I must admit, but Kay and I darted from one bit of shade to another and only really emerged at 8pm like butterflies from a chrysalis when the sun had gone down and it was cooler (by then as low as 30 degrees centigrade or 86 fahrenheit)! Even in the middle of the night, temperatures barely dropped below 30. How the Greeks manage to live their lives in that heat, I don't know, but you can understand why they need to siesta.

Because of the heat, we did not do an awful lot except relax by the pool or dart between the shadows down to the beach, but we sat under parasols until it was safe to emerge once more. The sea and the pool were refreshingly soothing and lured us from our shady hideaways. A few day trips using local buses to nearby villages and sights also enticed us

from the shade and were extremely interesting. I tried out my pathetic knowledge of Greek, much to the amusement of the waiters and shopkeepers, who looked questioningly at my faltering words and replied in perfect English. We ate a different Greek meal each evening and studiously avoided anything that smacked of English breakfasts or burgers and chips. We sometimes rounded off the evening with a cocktail or two decorated with a garnish of plastic mermaids, straws and other follies. We slept (with the extortionate optional extra of air-conditioning) like we had never slept before. Happy in the knowledge that we were not sharing our accommodation with an alcoholic who could set fire to the place at a moment's notice. A truly relaxing week. It did me the power of good. Mother and daughter getting on like two sisters or very good friends. Sharing secrets and having interesting conversations. Mamma mia, that was a week I shall remember for a very long time.

Our return was traumatic enough. It started by being collected by coach from our apartment at 1 am for a night flight at 5.30 am. This was supposed to be an hour-long transfer to the airport but turned into a two-hour coach-journey-from-hell. Ten minutes into the journey one passenger threw up his evening meal all over the coach aisle because he had drank too much alcohol and the coach had to stop for 20 minutes while he continued to throw up all over the roadside as well. Once the coach had been cleaned up and we had set off again, the coach shuddered to a halt after another five minutes and it transpired the coach had broken down. "Nothing serious", said the dippy blonde tour rep, "just something the matter with the engine!!" We waited another 30 minutes on a dark deserted bit of country roadside for a replacement coach. Once finally at the airport, the check-in was long and meticulous, the overnight flight was cramped and it was impossible to sleep so we arrived back in London at 7.30am having not slept a wink all night. We reached home bleary-eyed mid-morning to find Greg already quite inebriated and a dirty great burn hole in the kitchen floor where he had fallen asleep on one occasion and dropped his cigarette. We were home again... with a bump!

20 July 2009

Achtung! Achtung!

By the time you read this, Kay and I will be sitting by a swimming pool in the sunny Mediterranean for a well-deserved break in Greece. It's the first holiday we have had together for five years and my first holiday without Greg for 34 years. It is going to seem very strange, but he is in no state to travel (or be good company) and I desperately want to give Kay a good holiday after all her hard work and before she leaves home. If I am honest I am desperate too for a bit of a break from all the stresses and strains of the last five years.

In the meantime, thinking of things foreign and different, I thought I would share with you the one thing that really gets me shouting at the television. It is when people try to pronounce German names wrongly. All right, I studied German at uni and am, I suppose without wishing to blow my own trumpet (not that I have one) pretty fluent in it. I also lived in Germany for a total of four years, so I do know what I'm talking about.

I don't blame the ordinary man in the street for getting it wrong; after all I wouldn't profess to know how to pronounce something correctly in Spanish or Greek or Mongolian for that matter. But when large companies produce adverts on TV and cannot pronounce them, that is plain unacceptable, because they are teaching all of us to pronounce them incorrectly too. Even the German companies go along with the mispronunciation because they know how useless on the whole English people can be at foreign languages.

Take Braun - the company that manufactures things like hair-dryers and curling tongs. The ad-men would have us pronounce it "Brawn" to rhyme with "prawn". It must make a German's toes' curl rather than their hair, because it is pronounced "brown" like the colour which in fact it is. "Braun" is the German for the colour "brown" and is pronounced the same... "brown". Simples. Or you would think so. No, it has to rhyme with "prawn". Let's make it difficult.

Another example is the German sports car, Porsche. You will hear most people here pronounce it "Porsh", as if they have a speech impediment trying to say "posh". But German words ending in "-e" are always pronounced "-a" at the end. Thus in Germany "Porsche" is pronounced "Porsha". I always feel if you can afford to drive one, you should ****** well learn how to pronounce it properly. It always made me laugh when many years ago a previous next door neighbour - who had his own building firm - drove around in his "Porsh" thinking he was the bees' knees. In my eyes, it made him look ridiculous because he could not even pronounce the name of his car properly. I won't even go there with Audi's Vorsprung durch Technik or how many variations there are on the way people say "Volkswagen".

I could go on with more examples, but don't wish to appear pedantic and pretentious. (What, moi?) For some strange reason it does not sound hilarious when German is mispronounced. But French is another case altogether, as Inspector Clousseau from The Pink Panther and Rene Artois of 'Allo 'Allo would agree. Rant over and spread the word! The correct one, that is! If you tell five people and they tell five people, maybe eventually we'll have everyone pronouncing things correctly. I can dream....

Normal service will be resumed soon! Meanwhile think of us lapping up the Greek sun and hospitality! Now, what's Greek for "a white wine spritzer with a cherry on the top!"

14 July 2009

Happy Birthday

My one and only baby is eighteen years old today. It doesn't seem that long ago since she was a helpless little bundle that was so eager to get into this world she barely gave me time to get to the hospital and made her entrance just 90 minutes later.

I thank her for all the joy she has given me over the years...a joy I thought I would never see once I reached the dreaded forty. I thank her for all her love, her hard work at school, her comfort in dark times, her laughter and most of all for just being there. I thank her for keeping me sane. I apologise for being a ham-fisted mum at the start and not knowing which end was which when trying to apply the first nappy! I apologise for sometimes playing the bad cop, when she needed telling. Most of all I apologise for bringing her into this alcoholic environment that most kids should not have to experience.

She is a joy to behold - I wish I could share a photo with you - but for obvious reasons cannot, as I am sure you will appreciate. Trust me, she is stunning and turns heads. She has a wise head on her young shoulders. After all, she survived a trip to the Guatemalan jungle last year and came back in one piece. She knows the dangers of alcohol and promises me she will not drink to excess. She has seen the results painfully too often. However, as the youngest in her school year, she has had to sit out on too many friends' outings to clubs and pubs, as she did not have the requisite 18-year-old ID. She is at least very keen to try that out as soon as she can.

She and I are planning to wander around central London today and do whatever we fancy. Predictably Greg is not up to coming with us. (He has just come back with his daily purchase of whisky). I shall take Kay into a pub and get her to order some drinks with our lunch! Then tonight a quiet meal out somewhere. She is planning a birthday outing later in the week with her friends and they intend to go clubbing till the wee small hours of the morning. Just because they can and are old enough. My baby is no more. My grandmother used to say "small children, small worries; big children, big worries." It's true. When they are little you worry about them falling over and grazing their knee. When they older, you worry about the pressure they are put under at school. As they reach adulthood, you wonder what smart young boy is going to drive her into a tree at 60 miles an hour. I suppose you never stop worrying, but you have to let go. For their peace of mind and yours!

So happy birthday, darling, and have a wonderful day.

11 July 2009

Portobello Market

Kay and I went along to Notting Hill in North London today and headed for Portobello Market in Portobello Road. It was heaving with tourists of a hundred nationalities all taking photographs of the area made famous by Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in the film Notting Hill. It took us 20 minutes alone just to get up the steps in the Underground station, as it took the crowds that long to shuffle through.

We spent all day just browsing the shops and stalls on one side of the street and then browsing back along the other side. For those who have never been there, it is a very long road indeed (I believe about a mile long) and boasts the former homes of Lord Asquith and George Orwell. The sights and smells (of street cooking - paella, crepes etc) were amazing

and, of course we managed a bit more shopping for our holiday, even calling into the Travel Book shop (featured in the film) for a holiday guide book.

As it was Saturday, all the antique stalls were out in force today too. Our aching feet told us when it was time to head home again. Feel free to click on the pictures to get enlargements.

10 July 2009

Anniversary comes round again

Greg is looking like Long John Silver this morning with a patch over his eye where he had the cataract operation yesterday afternoon. He was not looking forward to the operation (I wondered if they would even attempt it with him full of alcohol, but they did it all under a local anaesthetic anyway). We had been told by various people who had had a cataract operation themselves that the op was not at all gruesome and indeed it went very well. Greg lay down, they covered his face and 25 minutes later they took the cover off his face and the eye had been done. He did not feel a single thing - it was all done with drops in the eye,numbing, melting, soothing etc. So if you know anyone who needs to have a similar operation done, there is absolutely no need to worry. I took the patch off, as directed, this morning and there is not even a lot of redness. I have bathed the eye and put three different lots of drops in which has to be done four times a day over the next two weeks. Seeing as I shall be ensconced in Greece in ten days' time, that could be difficult, but hopefully Greg will be able to do the drops himself by then, if the alcohol makes him see straight!

It is our 33rd wedding anniversary today. Greg wants to celebrate. I can't be bothered. Am I really being that unreasonable?

08 July 2009

Back for a while

Kay and I just got back from a lovely week with my mother. The weather was fantastic - mainly hot, sunny and humid with a scary thunderous downpour at the end. We all had a great time, shopping, shopping, shopping, lunching out, shopping, walks along the seafront, more shopping and (oh) shopping. I relaxed, as I was getting quite stressed of late, Kay relaxed, forgetting all about the trauma of exams, and my mother enjoyed our company, as she spends far too many long days on her own.

On our return to Greg today, we found
  • he had not eaten any food left in the fridge.
  • he had not taken any of his medication.
  • he was still wearing the same clothes we left him in a week ago.
  • he had not organised a handyman to do an urgent job in the house. I shall now have to get on and do that as a priority.
  • he has not reduced his alcohol consumption in preparation for a cataract operation he is having tomorrow.
  • he had not provided fresh water for the dog (he swears he had but there was grime around the bowl and algae floating on the top! The first thing I did on getting home was to wash out the water bowl and refill it with fresh water and the dog hurled himself at it and drank with gusto!)
Within 5 minutes of being home, my stress levels were sky high again. Grrrrr