Thursday, 3 December 2020

my special Xmas tree

Those of you who have been reading this blog over the years know that setting up the Christmas tree is a big deal for me! I mean, you can’t have Christmas without a Christmas tree! And it has become my tradition to set it up early, so that I can enjoy it for the longest possible, and celebrate the event with a seasonally appropriate film (I have been known to watch “Love Actually” almost every year on “tree day”) and hot chocolate. You see, I’m an alien (I’m a legal alien... in the words of the mighty Sting) and since I left my home country, it has been these little new traditions that I have created that have given me a sense of home no matter where I am and no matter if I’m alone. 

This year the tradition has not been followed... this is Luci’s first Christmas and since he is still a very curious and hyperactive kitten, compromises had to be made. So, I set up the tree this past Monday, thankfully right on time, while he was at the vet’s (yes, the time had come for him to part with his testicles... I mean, since he won’t be dating, ever, it’s only the right thing to do... otherwise it’s just cruel to leave him full of hormones and no girlfriend!) and I could open up boxes without him jumping in and making a complete mess! When he came home, all drowsy poor thing, it was all done... but there was no time for a Christmas movie, I just wanted to be with him and cuddle him and make sure he was alright. 

And this year there are no glass ornaments on the tree. In fact all my usual ornaments stayed in the boxes... the internet wise people all advised against them and understandably so... nothing appealing about a glass bauble shattered on the floor after having been attacked by a kitten! And what if it were my favourite ones from Liberty’s?!... Disaster! No! Instead, this year, my tree is decorated with felt hearts and stars and angels and gnomes and letters for all the members of my extended family (yes, my friends are my family too) with of course a nice red “L” for the light of my life! This year my tree (more correctly, our tree, I have a housemate now...) is special! “Better than shoes” special! And it marks Lucifer’s arrival in my life! Because, no matter how s**tty this year has been, it has brought little Luci into my life! And for this I will always be grateful! 

Ps. So far the tree is still standing... the little fur ball steals an ornament every now and then and I find it on the floor but after he brought me a heart in bed this morning, I’m willing to let it go... Ok, truth be told, I got all misty eyed when he jumped on the bed and left the red heart next to my face... ❤️

Sunday, 29 November 2020


Twenty years ago today, I arrived in the Netherlands... I was practically a kid, alone, all my belongings fitted in just two duffel bags but my hopes were larger than life! I wanted to be independent! I wanted to be accomplished and successful too but mostly, I wanted to be independent! To have a steady salary, to have a life in order, a life where the expression “we’ll see” would not have a place anymore, because, I would know whether something was possible or not right away. Growing up, this “we’ll see” and the insecurity that it entailed, had haunted my childhood... every time I wanted something, every time I asked for something, anything, the answer was usually that. Not “yes”, not “no”... just this limbo... which usually ended up in a “no” but the worst was the time it took to get me to the “no”. And I wanted, finally (and for good), to have a life without this painful anticipation.

I achieved that. In the twenty years that followed, I achieved much more. My belongings now cannot fit in two duffel bags... I mean the shoes alone can’t fit in my car...!! And I have a car. A mini car, but a car nonetheless. And I have travelled the world just like I wanted since I was a child, reading “The children of Captain Grant” again and again! I have seen incredible beauty, I have tasted deliciousness. I have made friends who are my family now. I have done work I can be proud of and I have passed my knowledge down to younger colleagues. I have fought for my rights. I have lost battles but I am still standing. I have loved. I have laughed. I have experienced great losses and I have not given up. And I have a cat! My darling Lucifer, the light of my life, who gives me so much love I never thought it would be possible! (he’s curled up next to me as I write this, purring in absolute contentment!)

Not too shabby, right? I mean, surely, other people have achieved much more and there is always Malala who is making each and everyone of us look like underachievers no matter what but, blimey, it surely isn’t bad for the 26-year-old girl, who came here alone with almost nothing and managed to build a life from scratch, all by herself! Has it always been “better than shoes”? The answer to that is a resounding “no”. There were times tough as nails. But what has been “better than shoes”, beyond any doubt, was my decision to come here. A decision I have not regretted not for a moment in these two decades! I have taken a chance and it has paid off. No matter what, I can say I made it on my own. It did not come cheaply. But the reward was worth the price! 

Saturday, 10 October 2020

choosing where to look at...

Yesterday I had the good fortune of having drinks (at my place, staying safe... plus, I have an amazing recipe for G&T!) with a lady I have know for many many years but we had not been really in touch for a long time. Yet, some time ago, right after my mother died, I made a weird post on Fb and she immediately texted me to ask if everything was alright. None other did... I mean from the outer circle of Fb friends, my close friends knew. So, this gesture of hers really moved me and I invited her with great pleasure for drinks and a chat.

And as I had thought it would be, it was a very pleasant evening! We talked for hours, drinking G&Ts and nibbling (I’m Greek... drinking without eating something is frowned upon... at least for my generation, I don’t know what the youngsters do these day... god, I sound so old!) and we had so much to tell to one another! The hours passed without noticing, really! Like myself, she has been through a lot these past couple of years but she’s strong and calm and she’s learning to take care of herself and... well, I feel she’s going to be just fine! So, as I was telling her some of my “adventures” of the last year, she said to me “goodness... you went through that and you tell me about it with a smile!”... and then it hit me: of course!! Of course I’m telling the story of the sh*t I’ve been through with a smile! Because I’m still here to tell the story!! 

You see, we can choose where to look at but some times we are so tired from... well... life itself, that we forget we can. We can choose to look at the sh*t that has happened to us and let the memory of it put us down once again or we can choose to look at the fact we are still standing, we are still here and we have friendly ears that are willing to listen to our stories. And if we choose the latter, we do have every reason to smile! “Yes, friend, my life has been pretty much a wreck for quite some time but I’m still here and able to tell the story and you are here listening to my story so, yes, I’m smiling from ear to ear!” It is a choice. Make the choice to look at the (one?..) thing that puts a smile on your face, not the thing(s) that break your heart even remembering them. Now, isn’t that “better than shoes”?...