Monday, 19 June 2006

A Beautiful Picture

Monday, 19 June 2006
No, not of Lia for once, of someone from the other end of the age spectrum.

This is a picture of my Auntie, she was 80 when this was taken on her final trip to Oz to stay with her 'second family'. My Cousin has this picture in her spare room and when my Mum stayed with her she saw the picture and said I would like it. So thanks to B for emailing me a copy as I love it and I think it captures Auntie perfectly.

She was one of a kind my Auntie Ethel (for a start she was probably the last member of the human race to be called Ethel LOL), she was my father's older sister, the matriarch of the family both in the UK and in Oz, she was stubborn, beligerant, opinionated and often downright rude. But those of us in the family that weren't petrified of her absolutely adored her.

Her world was mainly black and white, to get her to see the gray you had to do some fast talking, but if she was on your side you could conquer the world. Sadly for her she and her husband weren't able to have children but she coped by 'adopting' various neices, nephews and cousins over the years. Luckily for me I was the youngest of those adoptees and was, until the end, the undisputed favourite as she took on the role of Grandmother to me and my DBro from when I was three months old.

Selfishly I was occaisionally jealous of her second family in Oz of whom B was another 'adoptee' but in truth, Ethel had love to spare and she would often say that she, B and I were the same person spread over three generations. I'd like to think that some of her less endearing features have been diluted in the pair of us but the older I get the more I see her in myself so I'm not so sure on my part.

What I always loved most about her was that she loved life and didn't give a damn about what others thought of her. I remember as a child encouraging her to cartwheel which she did then, in her late 50s, as she had when she was courting my Uncle. He was fond of remembering how he married her despite her tendency to cartwheel up and down the High Street showing her underwear whilst waiting for the bus...

So here she is, a wonderful woman who I miss more than I can say. If I'd had a blog when she died two years ago I would have attempted to post something like this then but the tears that I can feel coming now would have stopped me. Everyone should be lucky enough to have an Auntie Ethel in their lives and I hope that at some point in my future I pay tribute to her memory by being that person to my Grandchildren.

I shall have to add 'Practicing Cartwheels' to my 101...

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

And so we're back...

Tuesday, 13 June 2006
Well, we've actually been back for almost a week now but it's taken me this long to get myself back to normal.

Most of last week was taken up with doing nine loads of washing and ironing - okay, some of the ironing still needs to be done as we came back to a REALLY hot England which changed ironing from a chore to torture. This year is obviously out to get me heat wise. Don't get me wrong, I like sunshine but anything above about 25 degrees is kinda torture for me.

The good news was that the house was still standing and, even better, the garden had been transformed while we were away (we paid someone to come and pave it) which was the best wedding present we could have. It means we can enjoy the current great weather by eating outside every night with the minimum of fuss which is what we wanted and didn't have when there was grass to cut.

When we first bought the house we transformed the (very small) garden with some decking, grass and flowers and I loved pottering about keeping it looking good but Lia's arrival last year meant that I didn't do anything out there (I was either heavily pregnant of knackered)so it was a real mess. Slabs are the best option as I still don't have the time to spend out there (and no, DH is not a gardener) and it means that if or when we decide to move it'll be a good selling point.

You'll all be pleased to know that we survived the rest of the Greece trip with very little incident. I managed to keep my temper and so no arguments occured which was great as I'd promised DH to do my utmost to make sure that was what happened. I was pushed to the limit though (although nothing as bad as giving my baby the wrong name) but I just had to view things with amusement rather than aggravation. Hopefully now I've done it once I'll manage to do it again as, although it's incredibly difficult not to let them get to me it's much easier for DH if I don't.

So what else is there to tell you about the trip? Gifts are a good topic as we spent several days of our last week exchanging gifts - some that were awful, some that were inappropriate and some that were downright huge.

After the christening we had 22, yes 22, pink dresses/outfits for Lia. All of them hideous. I don't do pink at the best of times but the Greeks seem to feel that girls clothes aren't girls clothes unless they have tat all over them so there's buttons, lace, taffeta, the works and they're icky in the extreme.

The main problem I had was that kids clothes are really expensive in Greece so we exchanged 650 euros worth of clothing which amounted to about 20 items. I could clothe Lia for two years on that money by shopping around at Tesco and Asda, etc and normally I wouldn't dream of spending that kind of money on clothes she'll wear for a few months.

It really upsets me to spend that kind of money on her and, even worse, two people had shopped at a boutique so 174 euros of that 650 were spent on TWO items of clothing!!!! What's worse is that I I found it impossible to make 174 euros stretch to more than two items of clothing so Lia now has (and I'm so ashamed) a denim jacket that cost 139 euros (£95) and a t-shirt that cost 53 euros (£36).

The problem was that most of the stuff in all of the shops was hideous and designed for children that sit still and don't play, get dirty, eat or do anything to mean their clothes need to be washed or ironed ever. Plus we couldn't exchange for less than the amount of the original so we always had to spend a little more as I never managed to duplicate the amount (the closest I got was 3 euros)

Oh and even worse was that some of the stuff smelt of cigarette smoke as over there shop owners just smoke in the shop. In fact, a couple of the things I got were actually yellow round the hem (I didn't notice till we got home and I certainly wasn't changing them again).

Wedding gift wise it wasn't too bad as quite a few people gave money which was so practical and easy to carry home. We did have some totally mad presents though and the friend who gave us a Darth Tater and Spud Trooper was totally outflanked by the friend who gave us a copy of this Map of Belgium.

No, I have no idea why he gave us a print of this and more importantly, why he gave us a print of this that's roughly 1.5m x 2m! We've left it in Greece for now as we have no idea how to get it home and absolutely no wallspace big enough for it anyway.

Still, as gifts go, I'll probably never be given anything quite so unusual...

Some things were just too large and heavy (a huge glass salad bowl) so we had to change them as we had so much luggage I was scared they wouldn't let us on the plane. As it was we were the kind of fellow traveller others hate as we had two large suitcases, one small suitcase, one huge 'sac voyage' and a car seat in the hold and five, yes, five large items of hand luggage in with us.

I don't know by what miracle BA didn't charge us extra but we got it all home almost in one piece (a silver fruit bowl got its handle broken) which is the main thing.

Oh and I have a PS as I was asked a question by Natty in my comments a while back and I always meant to answer it. I'm ashamed to say that I checked back and she asked the question in April so sorry Natty, I wasn't ignoring you really. As for the question, will we ever live in Greece, I'm sure some of the recent posts have given you a clue on my feelings about that but we have talked about it and it may well happen. The only thing I've made him agree to is that we'll have another baby before we go as I want to have my pregnancy in this country.

Saturday, 3 June 2006

The Christening

Saturday, 3 June 2006
So, the Christening (this is a long one!)

The day started when Lia woke at 5.50am which was not good as we'd gone to bed at 1.30am... We staggered around trying to get her sorted till DH's Mum came out and offered to take her. Despite my whole 'not leaving the baby with MIL' intentions I was too tired to argue so we went back to bed for a few hours.

When we got up DH's Godparents had arrived. They flew down from North Greece for the day (it's about an hours flight) and it was the first time I'd met them. They're lovely people and his Godmother is called Lia too (from a different name though) and she was so in love with our Lia. Amazingly for a Greek woman she was very well behaved around Lia and didn't insist on speaking to her in a stupid high pitched sing-song voice so Lia loved her too.

Then we were off. Lia was already a bit grumpy as she was so tired and whilst she slept a bit in the car she woke when we arrived so it was no more than a short nap really. DH and I were checking the venue arrangements, adding stuff to the tables (chocolates, etc) and speaking to the DJ who I gave some CDs to. He was a bit dubious as he said he had English music but I told him that I knew my friends would dance to these ones so he said he'd include some.

The church was behind the reception venue so we all walked round (some of my family had arrived by then) at which point the first not so pleasant thing happened - a guy that came to Uni in England with DH drove past us into the church. He hadn't been invited and he hadn't told us that he was coming and as I couldn't stand him when I knew him in England I was less than impressed to see him to say the least.

The Church was quite small and it was packed out with guests, many of whom had to stand. Thankfully for this ceremony I had a translated version of the service to give out to the English guests (I'd have done one for the wedding if I'd had enough warning) so they could follow what was going on a bit better.

Lia was very well behaved through most of the service, distracted by the priest I think. Well him and the little man that kept coming in with buckets of water to fill the 'font' for her dipping. It was actually more like a giant goblet and three buckets full of water were dumped in it (much to the amusement of the English guests). DH's sis as the Godmother had to hold Lia for the duration of the ceremony and basically she did all of the work. Which brings me to the second unpleasant happening. At one point the Priest asks the Godmother the name of the baby, she tells him and he repeats it.

Well Lia's middle name is DH's mother's name and it was deliberately given as a middle name because that's what we wanted. However several members of the family have indicated that they'd be much happier if it was the first name, in fact DH's grandmother is often heard referring to Lia by her middle name. I'm sure you can see where this is going but if you've missed it I'll spell it out, when asked Lia's name her godmother told the priest her middle name first and so she was actually baptised with her names the wrong way round.

I had a feeling this would happen and I'd told DH a few days before that I'd be furious if it did and he assured me it wouldn't. So much for assurances.

My initial reaction was to stop the ceremony and remove myself and Lia but I knew I'd be totally alienated if I did so I contented myself with making damn sure that the godmother and everyone else in the church knew how pissed off I was. A heated whispered conversation took place between me, DH and his sis (DH was as upset as me) and I was told that the Priest had said they should be that way round as Lia's first name is an ancient Greek name and her second is considered a Christian name.

I figure this is bollocks and several Greeks agreed with me. Her baptism certificate has the names in the right order and on several other occasions during the service the Priest used the names in the right order so why the issue at that point? Personally I also don't see why she didn't say the names in the right order anyway as the Priest would have either copied her or swapped them if he felt that strongly. Oh and if they knew this was going to happen (which they did because she gave the names in the wrong order) why didn't they have the decency to tell me?

Maybe because I'd have insisted on finding a Priest that would say them in the right order huh?

Anyway Lia was then stripped naked and sat in the water at which point she started yelling. A lot. She then had water tipped over her head three times which made her yell more... She was also oiled and blessed with myrrh which meant that she was very slippery and even harder to dress than usual when she's having a paddy. Of course I had to do the dressing bit didn't I so I was the one that had to struggle with her.

The Priest did a bit more blessing and then, of all things, I had to bow three times to the Godmother before taking my baby back from her. Not easy when my current inclinations were to punch her three times...

Anyway, we then had the reception line which seemed to take forever (there were a lot of guests) and then off to the venue for the party. Next unpleasant happening. The uninvited idiot then sat himself at a table of his choice taking other people's seats. This meant that three of DH's best friends were left standing around while we found them somewhere else to sit (DH wouldn't tell the guy to move!?!) which involved getting a new place setting set up and increased my pissed-off-ness to totally new levels.

By this time Lia was well stressed (I don't suppose I helped) as she was incredibly tired. I actually spent most of the early part of the reception in a room on my own with her trying to settle her. This meant that I missed the food which wasn't too bad as I wasn't that impressed with it. It was a buffet but as we were the VIPs they served our table which basically involved them giving us a plate full comprising of a bit of everything on offer, starters and mains together. To me it was completely off-putting but others said the food was really nice so I'm not that stressed about it really.

There were good things about the day too. Firstly the cake. DH's mother had ordered a pink cake and I told the caterer no way, I wanted it red and white to match the rest of the reception so they did it red and white and MIL was so not impressed her reaction was almost enough to make me forget how pissed off I was about other things.

Then there was Lia. When she'd settled down some I took her back to the main room and the two of us danced together which she absolutely loved. She was laughing so much that you couldn't help laughing too and she was ecstatic about being spun round and round. It also did the trick as shortly after that she fell asleep on my mother so spent most of the rest of the reception in her pushchair fast asleep.

After the meal about half of the Greek guests left and most of the ones that stayed just sat around looking a bit miserable. All the English wanted to dance and thankfully one or two of the Greeks got up and started dancing so we could join in. It was a bit of a shambles but people were having fun at least. DH's father got up and danced as did his mother's alcoholic best friend who was well away. She's a bit of an embarassment usually but I was grateful for her as she didn't care what others thought she was having fun so at least my lot got to see some Greek dancing.

Then the DJ started playing my choices and, true to form, my guests were up like a shot giving it some serious welly on the dance floor. I don't think the DJ intended to play all of my choices but when he saw that people were finally enjoying themselves he just kept going out of desperation... A few of our Greek friends joined us but generally, they were all sat being boring and looking at us all with slightly disapproving faces.

By this time I totally didn't care as I was finally having fun with my friends, fun which culminated in the now legendary 'Show me the way to Amarillo' congo where I led everyone round the room singing at the top of their voices. Other highlights included me and all my female friends linked up for 'We are Family', two of my male friends bouncing themselves into oblivion to 'Dizzy' and DH and I shuffling round the floor to 'High' by the Lighthouse Family which is as close to an 'our song' as we get.

By 6.30 it was all over and we headed home with a very exhausted little baby and a totally knackered mother. We'd tentatively agreed to meet some friends but when we got back we all just wanted our beds and sensibly went with that feeling.

So here's some pics of the day. I'm sure there'll be another post detailing the odds and ends I've forgotten here and in the wedding post and also covering the gifts...

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Happy Birthday Lia

Thursday, 1 June 2006
Well it was inevitable but time has passed so quickly - our little monkey is a year old today and I can't believe it.

We've had a fairly busy day trying to finalise the wedding paperwork and then changing the last of the weekends gifts to things that are more appropriate (and in some cases easier to transport).

However we had a quiet moment with Lia where she had some balloons and a cake so here's a couple of pics, her on her own and then with the five of us (Me, DH, his Sister and his Parents)

I hope to have the Christening stuff up soon but I need to edit pics down to size which is pretty time consuming so it'll be a few days yet.


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