Sunday 29 May 2022

Running Away With The Circus (and other stories)

I'm thrilled that you enjoyed our Greek Odyssey. It's about time I shared what I've been up to since we got home before it becomes ancient history. 

We came back to the UK to discover a riot of colour in the garden - so many of the plants we bought and the seeds & bulbs we'd planted last year had come back. 

As I'd only spent £12 on the garden since last August (three perennials and four boxes of bulbs from Wilko's clearance table), we popped down to the independent garden centre yesterday and invested in 12 plants (peat-free, UK grown) for £20 to add some Summer colour to our window boxes and patio pots. 

We've also got courgettes, patty pan, tomatoes, beetroot, lettuce, spring onions, aubergines, cucumbers, chilli peppers, basil and potatoes on the go. With four festivals and another couple of trips to Greece scheduled over the next few months it looks like the irrigation system Jon rigged up a couple of years ago may be called into play once again.

When someone on one of the Greek travel forums of which I'm a member posted that Lidl were holding their annual Greek Week we were there just after it opened on Thursday to snaffle some of their gigantes, stuffed vine leaves and green beans (we buy them every year, they're delicious). I also managed to get one of their veg boxes comprising bananas, satsumas, Tenderstem broccoli, carrots, purple sprouting broccoli, broccoli, an avocado, a punnet of raspberries, a punnet of blackcurrants, new potatoes and cherry tomatoes on the vine. What a bargain for £1.50!

On Saturday 21st, we drove down to Sudeley Castle in The Cotswolds to meet Claire and Gareth for an afternoon at Gifford's Circus, an incredibly glamorous vintage-style extravaganza with jugglers, acrobats, trapeze artists, horse-riding, magic and clowning with a Mexican theme.

Claire's photos are incredible - do pop over and visit her fantastic blog post HERE - don't forget to follow her while you're at it, her photos and writing are superb. Gifford's Circus is visiting various locations around the Midlands and the South of England and runs until September. Words can't express what a wonderful day it is - go and see for yourself. 

It was a glorious day and, with no reason to rush back, we found a quaint country pub, ordered food and ate outside in the sunshine. We'd not seen Claire & Gareth since last summer (we've been friends since we were festival trading neighbours back in 2014) and there was much chatting and catching-up in-between stuffing our faces. I had to be an Instagram w*nker - even though I never post photos on there any more - and took photos of our food, vegan lasagne (Claire), chick pea and sweet potato curry (me), fish and chips (Lord Jon) and a steak sandwich (Gareth).

Ye Olde Hobnails Inn in Great Washbourne, near Tewkesbury, was built in 1280 and has been an inn since 1483. Up until 1999 it had been in the same family for 250 years.

Jon & I have squeezed in four swims - clocking up a total of two miles - since we got home. Although I'm a competent swimmer I've never been a confident one and have always been a bit scared of deep water and of getting my face wet however, I'm not sure how or why, but that fear has gone. I swam out to sea in Crete and have set myself the challenge of jumping off a rock into the crystal clear waters of the Aegean when we revisit this bar (in my video below) on our next trip to Greece. I bought some goggles last week and launched myself into the deep end on Friday - I can do this!

TV-wise we've caught up with The Great British Sewing Bee, Lucy Worsley Investigates & Silent Witness and we're onto season three of Borgen. We adored After Love, an incredibly moving film starring the wonderful British actress Joanna Scanlan (from TV's No Offence and Getting On) and went to the cinema on Tuesday to see Everything Everywhere All At Once, which was possibly the craziest film we've ever seen in our entire lives - we loved it.

Festival preparation starts in earnest on Wednesday, when No-Mow-May is over and we can cut the grass and erect the trade tent. Needless to say we've been out and about snapping up stock (and adding to our wardrobes and bookshelves, too). I shall endeavour to photograph our finds in the coming few days but in the meantime, here's a few of my keepers...

A pair of 1980s sunglasses; a Miss Selfridge Victorian-style Indian cotton blouse; two books, Gardens of Delight, a collection of photographs of the great Islamic gardens of Spain, Morocco, Syria, India and Pakistan and William Morris by Himself, featuring his designs and writing; a pair of Rylko oxblood leather flatform boots (made in Poland) and a pair of knee high textured olive green leather platform boots by Leibeskind, Berlin which were made in Germany and originally retailed at £225 (I paid £3!)

 And what have I been wearing?

For our trip to the cinema - a Zara cutwork dress and vintage Bulgarian leather bag (both charity shopped), Superga organic cotton plimsols (via eBay), leather earrings & leather bangle and knock-off Prada sunnies (Crete).

Dressed for a morning of charity shopping - Miss Selfridge blouse and a vintage leather belt (both charity shopped), Lotta from Stockholm taupe clogs (eBay) and a skirt I made in 2010 using a 1960s curtain I bought from a jumble sale. The print is Intrigue by Peter Perritt and was created for legendary London department store, Heals. The V&A have several of his screen-printed textiles in their collection. 

Charity shopping in a vintage '70s Radley shirred cotton sundress (the British Boutique label who worked with Ossie Clark) & a Made in Hong Kong straw bag (both charity shopped) worn with orange leather Lotta from Stockholm clogs (via eBay), my silver Malia pendant and some retro-inspired sunglasses bought from Jaded, London in 2017.

Popping out to the garden centre in Lucky Brand dungarees, an embroidered ramie blouse and vintage 1980s sunglasses (all charity shopped), gold Lotta from Stockholm clogs (via eBay) and metallic leather bag (from Rajasthan).

Walking into town and back for a swim (hence the topknot and lack of rings & bangles) in vintage Ayesha Davar shirred cheesecloth blouse and 1970s Anokhi block printed cotton maxi skirt (both eBay), Tasselled earrings (charity shop), polarised sunglasses & orange nubuck Lotta from Stockholm clogs (bought as Lotta samples and half the retail price) 

Another Sunday, another visit to the shops. This time I wore a Wyse, London shirred midi dress (charity shopped) and the orange nubuck Lottas seen in the previous outfit.

It feels like an age since the optician referred me to the hospital after continually failing my field tests but it's only been three months and tomorrow's the day. What could be more appropriate for a woman obsessed with spy novels than being assigned Route 007? 

See you soon!

Thursday 26 May 2022

Our Greek Odyssey - The Grand Finale

After Sunday's Greek epic, Monday was a lazy day with breakfast at the harbour and a wander around the shops. 

I managed to find a replica of the Malia pendant in 925 silver, in the same size as the original.

Meanwhile, Tony bought a couple more tee shirts. The gorgeous shop owner insisted we joined her for a 10.30am glass of ginger and lemongrass raki and pleaded for Tony to retire to Crete so they could be best friends. Originally from Ukraine, she'd travelled to Crete when she was 19 and upon reaching Chania ripped up her passport and never left. Tony's in love.

We spent the day on Nea Chora beach. On Thursday it had been overcast and quite chilly out of the sun but on Monday the weather was perfect, baking hot with a cloudless cerulean blue sky. I went for a dip in the Med, swam out to a rock which I climbed and stood waving at the boys who were too busy chatting to notice. When I returned half an hour later they were surprised to see me soaking wet, they assumed I'd just gone to the loo. It was probably the furthest out to sea that I'd ever swum and they didn't even notice!

After a leisurely lunch, we put in a few more hours before wandering back.

Back at Eleonora Sophia was waiting for us. There'd been yet another mix-up with the bookings and she'd moved Tony's stuff to her friend's apartments in the next street, it might have been our penultimate day but for Tony, his Greek Odyssey was set to continue. We followed her to where he would be spending his final night and discovered it would be in an 800 year old heritage home which normally cost €150 a night. Sophia's friend had even baked him an apple pie and a bag of biscuits to welcome him. Tony then realised that Sophia had failed to pack his phone charger which led to a series of very strange mimes, her English was good but "phone charger" was a step too far - luckily we got there in the end.

We decided our sundown beer should be taken on Tony's posh new terrace rather than our roof.

Wandering the alleyways, we chatted to man enjoying a raki outside his house and, me being me, asked if we could look inside. I was fascinated by that photo of his handsome grandfather, taken in the 1930s and of his father, looking every inch the Northern Soul boy with his Oxford Bags and fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth.

We continued to the Albanian man's restaurant for pre-dinner drinks where the cat recognised me immediately and climbed onto my lap for some fuss. The Albanian man joined us and insisted on another session on the raki but after two carafes we said our goodbyes before things got messy.

Tony had been eulogising over the patatas bravas since we'd eaten them two nights ago so we went back to The Well of The Turk for more.

Tuesday was our last day and, as we didn't need to leave for the airport until 7pm, Sophia kindly let us keep our room on for no extra charge . She brought us a tray of feta and leek pies, custard pastries and cheese toasties which we took round to Tony's place and ate in his courtyard. His landlady then delivered us a platter of freshly baked cheese pastries drizzled in honey, a Chania delicacy, which we also demolished. Tony had realised that Sophia had failed to pack his best trainers and that they were still under the bed in the room which was now occupied by a Polish couple. We promised we'd ask her about them later but, in the meantime, to keep his eyes peeled for a man walking around Chania wearing his trainers - don't laugh, it's happened before. In 2000 we were in Brazil and my brother and Tony sent some of their tee shirts to the hotel laundry. The following day some of the staff invited Tony & Marcus to join them for a five-aside football match, only for them to discover several members of the team wearing their tops. 

Stuffed to the gills with pastries, we wandered around Chania for the last time.

Tony's beautiful Ukrainian friend spotted him and came running out of her shop to hug him, demanding he come back & see her in September. The foolish man never asked for her number and has since mislaid her business card. Talk about a Greek Tragedy! If you're heading to Chania in the next few months and spot this lady do let me know. Incidentally, did you know that the word "idiot" is derived from Ancient Greek?

We visited an exhibition charting the history of a local football team held inside the old Ottoman mosque on the harbour and had an iced coffee at the Chania Sailing Club, never tiring for those spectacular views.

Anarchy is derived from the Ancient Greek words for "without rulers".

We visited a fascinating (but sobering) photography exhibition of The Siege of Crete then walked up to the Chania sports stadium before settling down outside the beautiful Amphora Hotel for an ice cold beer.

Then it was time to return to Platina 1821 for a late lunch. 

The Cretan salads and complimentary watermelon raki and chocolate brownies were as good as ever and Tony was very impressed with his handmade burger and skin-on chips.


We returned to Eleonora where Sophia had managed to retrieve Tony's trainers thus averting another Greek tragedy. After showers we walked across to the new town and hailed a taxi to the airport. 

Although is was a "goodbye" (antio sas) to Crete it was only a "see you soon" (ta léme sýntoma) to Greece as within three days of getting home we'd booked another trip!