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Christmas 2011

January 20, 2012

The family gathered for Christmas lunch

We’ve been back in Greece somewhere over a week now and it’s been at least as cold here as it was during our month in the UK. The difference is that here we’ve had blue skies and bright sunshine whereas in Britain it was almost constantly grey and drizzly. Through the day, the cold is not a problem as our cockpit faces south and the cockpit tent acts as a greenhouse so it is lovely and warm sitting there and noticeably cold going below. I’m sitting up in the cockpit now to write this. However as soon as the sun goes the temperature drops like a stone. We do have an Ebersbacher heating system which runs off diesel and is excellent but living on a budget, we only allow ourselves to turn it on for a limited number of hours per day and as soon as it goes off the temperature drops like a stone due to the poor insulation on the boat. The solution? Well the marina bar is warm and inviting so we usually find our way there most evenings for a while at least!

Looking south across the Gulf of Patras to the snow on the mountains of the Peloponnese

But what about the trip home? We had a great time though it was busy and although we managed to see all the family there were many friends we’d like to have seen but didn’t manage to, this visit.

We drove the Fiat home through Italy and France, catching the ferry from Igoumenitsa to Ancona after spending a night with our friends Corinne and Claudio who are wintering in Corfu, recovering from a leaking diesel tank and then a lightening strike to their beloved “Levitha!” It was as great as ever to see them and we wish them well with all the work they now have to make “Levitha” seaworthy again.

Liz in her office at the 3 Mariners, Faversham

Our first stop in the UK was with my sister Liz and her partner John who run a gastro pub in Faversham, Kent. (If you ever happen to be in the area, look up The Three Mariners – the food is amazing.) We managed to get the Fiat through its MOT without any trouble which was a relief and had a few lovely days with Lizzie. One afternoon I helped her with the delivery from the brewery – quite interesting to see how things work backstage. After four days we pressed on to Cheshire to see Duncan’s family, the doctor and dentist (our own MOTs!) and visit our storage unit. There we discovered to our horror that moths had had a field day and utterly destroyed three of our four beautiful Turkish rugs and the fourth, frankly is problematic. So sad!

Cousin Eric teaches Jess and Lily the finer points of pool.

On 21st we drove into North Wales to take over the farmhouse in the hills above Llanwrst now known in the family as “The Christmas House.” Having emptied the Fiat, D & I did a gargantuan shop in preparation for the gathering of the clans, and later that day the Irish contingent joined us.

Oh parents just let you down all the time!

Not sure who's more excited, Charlie or Susie!

"Oh goodness, don't say I have to talk to him!"

Through the week we took a trip on the Welsh Mountain Railway to see Santa, visited the pantomime in Llanddudno to see Jack and the Beanstalk, and entertained most of the family at some point or other plus my dear friend Maggie and later the Lynch family (who looked after “Rampage” for us in the summer of 2010 when we went home in August for Polly & Tommy’s wedding.) The latter drove up from Cornwall to join us all on 23rd, laden with more wonderful food and proceeded to do most of the cooking while they were with us – feeding us magnificently! There were a number of amusing comments through the week but one of the best was from Pol, much mystified as to how all the dirty plates seemed to miraculously clean themselves after every meal. Obviously the concept of a dishwasher is totally alien to her!

Cousins Eleanor and Gregory come to visit

There were 11 of us on Christmas day including Duncan’s sister Susie and her friend Fiona, not to mention 3 cats and Ghillie, Fiona’s golden Labrador. The children of course making it all so much more fun. Little Lily’s appreciative “Oh Wow!!” to every present that was opened – her own and everyone elses – made us recognise just how very fortunate we all are.

Lily gets her first dolly - "Oh Wow!"

Present opening is just sooo exciting!

"Er, excuse me! Where's my lunch?"

Susie and Fiona braved the revolting weather, principally for Ghillie’s benefit, on both Christmas Day and again on Boxing Day to take Serious Walks. The rest of us ventured out a few times but it was not much fun in the rain and biting wind. One day, suffering from cabin fever, we bundled the three children into boots and coats and scarves and gloves only to get about 100 yards before Lily found a delicious puddle and could be persuaded to go no further. After getting wetter and wetter and muddier and muddier, she eventually (almost inevitably) sat down in it and then had to be taken home for a hot bath and a change of clothes.

Even when you're five or seven, muddy puddles have their appeal...

Because of the rain and wind Grandpa was unable to make tissue paper lanterns with Charlie and Jess as hoped but we still managed to have a fairly riotous time with lots of games, laughter and good food.

Playing Pooh sticks

After an emergency family conference regarding the future care of Duncan’s parents, who are causing much concern these days, we headed south on 29th to spend a night with my brother and his family in Cardiff. To his delight, they had bought Duncan the game “Quiddler” for Christmas so naturally we had to introduce them to it; they then proceeded to beat us hollow! Oh the ignominy!

Next day we pressed on south to spend New Year with Polly and Tommy in their new home in Mylor Bridge, the village where they were married. D earned his keep whilst in Cornwall doing various “little jobs” round the house including hanging a kitchen door which turned out to be a far bigger task than he’d originally anticipated. However, we had a lovely time and being serious foodies, they fed us magnificently whilst we were with them. The first night they took us to a fabulous fish restaurant in Falmouth (just by the Boatman’s Locker for those of you who know Falmouth) where we gorged ourselves on prawns, mussels and scallops.

Ahhhh

On 4th we headed back northwards, stopping overnight near Bristol with our friends the Barrys, before pressing on to London to stay a few nights with Jonno and Lucy. They were not with us over Christmas as Lucy’s father had celebrated his 60th birthday by taking all his family skiing in France. By all accounts (and some hilarious photos) they certainly had a fabulous time. Almost our last act was to visit the London Boat Show at Excel, meeting up with Duncan’s brother Mike and his wife Jane who are in the process of having a narrow boat built as a future home. (This business of choosing to live on a boat is obviously catching!) We had a great day together ‘though we’re not sure we’ll bother with the Boat Show again; the number of exhibitors has dropped significantly in the past few years and there was very little I hankered to buy, ‘though this was probably a Good Thing since finances are always depleted at the beginning of January for most of us. We did manage to get a new anode for our Brunton autoprop, a battery monitoring system and a replacement emergency location beacon. Jane and I were also both seduced into buying Cornish smocks. However Jane contented herself with a tasteful royal blue one, I, typically, succumbed to something a little more loud!

J sporting her Cornish smock of many colours - Joseph eat your heart out! Oh and note new cosy boots to combat freezing temperatures.

Well that just about brings us up to date. We left the Fiat with Jonno and Lucy and flew back to Athens from Gatwick on Monday 9th January. “Rampage” was in good order on our return and we have made a start on the remaining winter maintenance jobs although the fabric for a new bimini and shade tent have to come from UK together with the sewing machine which we retrieved from the storage unit. Lift out is scheduled for a week in late March but before that Duncan will be returning to the UK for an audiology appointment and to see his parents again.

We didn’t manage to send our usual Christmas greetings to many people this year so we’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and healthy new year and very best wishes for 2012.

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