Rainy days and Mondays always make me…well…pretty damn happy actually. I know, I know. You only want to hear about hot sunny days, turquoise waters, fresh orange juice and palm fringed beaches. I have written about those things previously, but this blog is about real life, and in reality it rains in the winter. The sun takes time off, having worked overtime all summer, and winter in Greece is just like winter elsewhere. Okay, it’s quite mild. No, it’s not muddy. Yes we still go to the beach when it’s sunny. It’s nothing like winter by most people’s standards.
So, what do we do when it’s raining and grey and the sea look likes a bowl of vegetable stew? The answer is that we embrace it. For us, winter in Greece is about hibernating, slowing down, waking up naturally and drinking tea.
A life without routine…
We dreamed of a life where we could wake up without an alarm clock, eat when we were hungry and have no routine. In the UK we were so used to living our life by days, weeks, months, clocks, alarms and every other human invented measurement. After years of working and saving, we had finally achieved what we longed for.
We’ve created a lifestyle where we don’t have to work very much anymore. I work part time in the summer, and Mr SN works for a couple of months per year in the UK. This will change once Walnut cottage has been renovated and is making us an income, but regardless, we have an abundance of free time to do as we please. What would you do if you didn’t have to wake up for work anymore? After a week of lie-in’s, would you feel lazy? During the winter, we began to fall into a rhythm of rising late, drinking too much tea and accomplishing very little. Instead of feeling jubilant, we felt lazy and unmotivated. We’d been handed what we wanted, yet we were stood like freed prisoners, squinting out into the daylight, unsure of where to go.
One day, for a reason I should remember but can’t, we decided that enough was enough. We needed to establish a routine in our lives, because even though we’re not lazy by nature, we had slipped a little. We were lacking satisfaction, plus lie-in’s aren’t special when you can have them every morning.
Introducing a routine…
We’ve now introduced a kinda, sort-of routine during the winter in Greece, but it’s flexible, and we still have loads of tea breaks. If we’re ill or the weather is really bad, then we can change the plan. We still allow ourselves to wake up naturally, because alarms suck. Even a favourite tune loses it’s charm when it wakes you up at 6.30am and you can’t find the light switch.
I’ve implemented the rule that when I wake up, I get up. It’s a simple rule, but it’s the hardest bit. No-one is expecting me to be somewhere, no-one will reprimand me for being late for work. I’m the boss for 6 months of the year, and I need to toughen up on myself.
A typical winter day in Greece…
Once I’m up and dressed, I feel the need to reward myself for such an achievement with a filter coffee. I fill up my reusable coffee cup, slip on my wellies and coat and head out into the maze of olive trees that lay beyond our front gate. Dora and I meander through the dewy blanket of bright yellow flowers and listen to birdsong. When the sun is out, the mountains rise majestically against an azure blue sky. When it’s overcast, the clouds cling to the peaks like the froth on top of a good beer.
This is my time to reflect, to think, to plan the day ahead, and to acknowledge how grateful I am. Nothings beats beginning the day with a little humility. I’m insignificant against the backdrop of mount Psilorites and the olive groves, and I should never let my ego tell me otherwise.
My coffee cup is empty and Dora and I loop back towards home, passing by our favourite orange tree which is neglected. Fruit drops to the floor and I pick a couple to juice when we get home. Dora-dog bounces about with excitement, mistaking the oranges for balls.
Depending on the route, we pass Walnut cottage, our stone ruin. The mandarin tree in the garden is laden with tiny orange fruits the size of coins. As we near home, villa Theodora comes into view; all whitewashed and terracotta tiles. I’m ready for the day, Motivated, keen.
“I’m ready for the day, Motivated, keen.“
The day will unfold with a mixture of DIY, cottage renovation, gardening, baking, blog writing, cat feeding and lunch eating. When the days work is done, the log burner is lit and dinner is cooked in heavy enamel saucepans.
Evenings are spent cuddled up around the log burner, reading books on keeping chickens, playing board games***, eating dinner, boiling carob syrup and watching films.
***Side note: I HATE games. I only play because I feel it’s the ‘done’ thing. People in films play board games (whilst wearing retro jumpers) when it’s raining and the fire is going. Maybe you’re not supposed to actually enjoy them?
The kettle whistles to alert us that it’s boiling again. The excess water is poured into hot water bottles for warming up the bed. The living area is cosy and gives us rosy cheeks but the adjoining rooms are chilly in contrast.
On the days when the weather is horrendous, we hunker down inside, bake bread, make pizza and enjoy the relief from chores. There’s no guilt, we’re allowed to indulge in doing nothing because we work hard the rest of the time.
We reward ourselves on Sundays by having a lie-in and an extra special breakfast. We might not take the whole day off, but it’s slower and more laid back. The little shop in the village is open on Sundays, so we take a walk, past the goats, past the war memorial and the house with the big orange tree in the garden. Nikos in the shop is friendly and puts us at ease. He complains that he is cold and we agree that we can’t wait for Spring either. We buy a packet of crisps as a treat and wander back past the big orange tree.
Life isn’t perfect…
Life isn’t perfect. I could leave out the details and make you believe that we never feel down or anxious or unhappy. But the truth is that rainy days can enhance the longing for home. I miss meeting up with friends, mum’s roast dinners and tea and cake at Nanny’s.
We long for crisp winter days that make your fingers and toes go numb. I miss spontaneous catch-ups and bumping into acquaintances in town. We want country pubs with open fires and pints of Sussex ale. These feelings are momentary and fleeting, but they are there none-the-less. They aren’t strong enough to want to go home, but I’m still hoping for a portal that will transport me straight into my parents kitchen as the tea bags are put in the tea pot.
Some days I feel worried that I will never become fluent in Greek and I feel anxious when I am lost for words or can’t be understood. I don’t want to stand out, but I do. I’m new and foreign and I have a long way to go before fluency. Winter in Greece as a foreigner can be tough, but we’re even tougher.
We lead a double life…
We lead a double life here in Crete. Our Winter and Summer existence are contrasted. I know that April is just around the corner and before long I will be running up and down flights of stairs serving boiled eggs and cups of coffee. For the meantime, there’s still another two months before the tourist season commences.
I better get going. The kettle is whistling, Elvis the outdoor cat has found his way in, and is in the cleaning cupboard amongst the cleaning cloths. Nancy the one eyed cat is playing with Dora-dog’s ball, Dora-dog is asleep on the sofa and the seed trays in the lounge are at risk of being used as litter trays.
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