Month: September 2019

Reasons I love Stoupa

Mention Stoupa as a travel destination and most people will just look at you blankly. Only once, in the 18 or so years I’ve been raving about it, has anyone known where I was talking about.

In fact, mention mainland Greece to most people and they look slightly confused. “Whereabouts?” they’ll ask. Not many people have particularly good Greek geography, so if it’s not the capital Athens, or perhaps Halkidiki in the North, then most people won’t recognise it. My response of “in the Mani Peninsula, in the base of the Peloponnese mountains” usually elicits a vague acknowledgement and little else. In fact a work colleague told me this year that I’m the only person he knows who’s ever holidayed on the mainland.

I feel for Stoupa right now

It’s heavily serviced by Thomas Cook flights from the UK, and many of the accommodations have an affiliation to TC too. Because the accommodation owners get paid at the end of the season, there’ll be many who will have worked the summer season for nothing; at least until the financial mess can be sorted and creditors paid.. For a small village which needs to make the majority of its money in the summer in order to survive the quieter winter, that’s a heavy blow.

Some of the reasons I love Stoupa are reasons that others would find to dislike it. It isn’t fancy. There are no luxury hotels. Nothing is higher than two storeys. Apartment decor tends to be rustic, mismatched and basic. Bathrooms rarely have baths. Shower cubicles may not have a curtain, or a hook for the shower attachment. If it’s true that you go on holiday to experience something different then, for us, Stoupa is it.

Sunbleached cars and battered mopeds are the only (occasional) traffic that you see. Taxis are as rare as hens teeth. Electricity cables drape precariously from telegraph poles to houses. There are only a handful of shops. on the one main street. It takes no more than 10 minutes to walk from one end of the village to the other.

Cats wander freely amongst handpainted restaurant tables and wooden chairs. Wine is ordered by colour and quantity, not by grape or the bottle (it’s approximately 6 euros for a litre of very drinkable local wine – what’s not to like?!) Food is traditional and home cooked – no haute cuisine here. The most tender meat, the reddest tomatoes. tear and share bread with olive oil, seafood, tasty potatoes . Oven baked, freshly grown and always delicious.

There is no “picture perfect” backdrop of white sands and palm trees

The mountains are rugged and imposing; often clouding over with ominous blackness that rarely reaches the Stoupa coastline but provides a dramatic vista as you swim in the cool blue sea. The coast line is craggy in places. There are no water sports, just a few small boats and pedalos to hire. The stone buildings don’t have the curb appeal of Santorini’s white architecture, for example; so often portrayed in articles about visiting Greece. The silvery grey leaves of the olive trees look arid rather than lush. It’s beautiful, but not an Instgram dream, and it’s all the better for it (I didn’t see one selfie stick in the whole time we were there).

I love Stoupa not in spite of all these things, but because of them

These are the things that make it so inimitable to me. It feels real and authentic. It’s not showy or trying to be something it isn’t. It’s solid, dependable and welcoming. It isn’t exciting, yet I get so excited at the thought of going, precisely because I know what to expect. This goes against the grain for me when it comes to travel, because I love the thought of exploring new places and seeing more of the world, but there’s something about this little village that just has my heart.

Oh, and did I mention the sunsets?

I think that the Thomas Cook situation has opened a lot of regular visitors’ eyes about how precarious the livelihood of some of the accommodation owners is, and I think it will change how people book in the future. We booked directly with the apartment this year and will do so again in the future. I only hope that another airline picks up the Thomas Cook routes so that Brits are still able to visit and holiday amongst the Greeks, Germans, Dutch and other nationalities who love it as much as we do. While both BA and Easyjet currently operate flights from the UK, Thomas Cook was by far the biggest operator; flying probably a thousand people each week to Kalamata airport.

Have you got a favourite holiday destination that you love to go back to? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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“It will all get back to normal after Brexit”

Thomas Cook aeroplane at Birmingham airport

I flew home from Greece last week with Thomas Cook. As I was queuing at Kalamata airport, I overheard a men behind me discussing the Euro, the cost of living, and increasing hotel taxes in Greece. “It will all get back to normal when Brexit happens” he declared.

He followed up with “we’re not sure we’ll come back here again.”

“You may not be able to,” responded a lady at the side of him, “if Thomas Cook go under.”

His response? “Oh Thomas Cook will be ok.”

It’s this kind of head in the sand attitude that pisses me off. How many times have I read that EU countries need us because they rely on our tourism, or that Brexit isn’t impacting the UK economy and UK businesses, and that we’ll all be better off once we’ve left?

Where is the proof? Is it not enough that failing businesses are citing Brexit as a very real issue in their falling profits? (I’m not saying that Brexit is solely to blame for the demise of TC, but it can’t fail to have had an effect). Is it not enough that a company with 178 years of trading history has gone down the drain?

Where do some people get the continuing idea that it’s all going to be ok?

UK politics continues into unchartered territory with the news that Boris has broken the law in proroguing parliament, the UK’s first ever travel agent and stalwart of the high street has gone bust and Brexit is looming ever closer with no hint of resolution.

That doesn’t sound like a country that’s in control to me.

On the plus side, at least we now have those incredibly informative <<heavy sarcasm alert>> adverts on TV and radio telling us that things might change on November 1st. Not how they’ll change – presumably because nobody knows.

Never mind. The British holidaymaker in the Greek airport said things will all get back to normal, so it must be true.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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Does your MP represent your views?

Pointing finger - does your MP work for you?

Politics. You can’t escape it right now. Whichever side of the Brexit fence you sit, I think it’s fair to say we’re in a hell of a mess which shows no signs of abating. Boris appears to be going bonkers and heading towards dictator/despot status, Rees-Mogg can’t even sit upright, and the government has no majority.

Wowsers!

Like (I think) many people, my interest in politics has developed in the lead up to the Brexit referendum and in the time that has passed since. Prior to that I felt (rightly or wrongly) largely unaffected by the political landscape. I held loose views on the political parties but didn’t feel that what was going on in Westminster really made a difference to my life.

So what changed?

As well as the vote on whether to leave or stay in the EU, which began to shape my views and pique my interest, I have become a more avid and staunch supporter of Dignity in Dying and the rights they campaign for. Following an inoperable prostate cancer diagnosis, my Dad started looking into assisted dying as an insurance policy to avoid what he feared may be a horrible death. Due to the UK law this would have meant travelling to Dignitas in Switzerland, where assisted dying is legal. Dad wasn’t able to progress with his plan due to his doctor denying him access to the necessary medical records, but his wife has since shared their experience with Dignity in Dying, and I was invited to Parliament to a debate in January 2018.

The last assisted dying bill was voted on in 2015, and MPs voted 330 to 118 against a change in the law to allow terminally ill people to end their own lives with medical help. I started to wonder how my own MP, Labour’s Roger Godsiff, had voted.

That’s when I found website They Work For You. Here you can find a history of how your MP has voted on matters that are important you.

I was delighted to find that Mr Godsiff had voted in favour of a change to the law, allowing assisted dying, in both the 2015, and the preceding 1997 vote.

More recently…

You may have seen news coverage earlier this year about protests outside primary schools regarding LGBT teachings. Despite the messages being around acceptance of differences than hardcore gay sex (as you might imagine from the uproar), parents and none parents alike were causing disturbances outside the school in the Birmingham suburbs and withdrawing their children from lessons. While at first covered only locally, in time this reached the national news.

Roger Godsiff was, at first, conspicuous in his silence. Then, even worse, he publicly declared that the protestors were correct to be against the teachings and that they had just cause to be unhappy (despite, it later emerged, having not even read the books that were at the centre of the controversy). Once again I turned to They Work For You, to find out how our Roger had voted on LGBT issues.

Turns out that, up until July this year, Rog couldn’t be bothered to turn up to 4 votes regarding allowing same sex marriage, and voted once against it, in 2013. Funnily enough, in July this year, he voted in favour of allowing same sex marriage in Northern Ireland (where it’s currently still illegal). Now, either he’s had a dramatic change of heart (doubtful) or, as the cynic in me believes, is trying to get back in the good books after his misplaced and archaic comments around LGBT teaching in school (for which he was publicly denounced by fellow Labour members, and reported to the Chief Whip).

Back to Brexit

To give Godsiff his due, he has voted against leaving the EU with no deal. But he did vote in favour of a referendum around EU membership in both 2011 and 2013 – which is what caused this mess in the first place!

Just down the road…

In a neighbouring constituency, Labour MP Jess Phillips is a breath of fresh air. She represents Yardley constituency – with a mix of ethnicity, wealth and education. As recently as yesterday she made headlines in her out and out vocal disdain and distrust of Boris Johnson as the current Prime Minister. She’s straight talking, passionate, and in politics for the people rather than the status. She spoke out against the LGBT protests even though they weren’t happening in her jurisdiction. She has been an active part of protests around cutting funding for schools, so that some can only afford to open 4 or 4.5 days per week (her son is one of thousands of pupils affected).

British politics need more people like Jess Phillips. In touch with the people, wanting the best for the country (rather than self promotion and vanity titles), dare I say young? Not that all older politicians are out of touch, but many of them are.

Find out more about your MP

If you get 5 minutes, have a look at the They Work For You website and get an overview of your local MP. Of course you won’t agree with them on everything. But it’s an interesting read nonetheless. It could well be helpful to you if a General Election happens sooner rather than later!

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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30 days has September…

30 days has September - autumn coloured leaves on a wooden surface

…and some of those days will be sad.

It’s 3 years on the 12th of this month since my Dad died, and 3 years on the 30th since his funeral. While I’m mostly able to deal with him not being around on an every day basis, special days and anniversaries still hit me hard. And not just on the day either; I can feel the change coming in the lead up. It probably isn’t perceptible to the outside world, because I try not to show it, but there’s a shift in my thoughts; the frequency with which I think about Dad (even more than normal), the way in which I think about him (how he suffered, what he’s missed since he’s been gone), and how bloody unfair it all is.

Grief is an ever changing beast, and there’s no handbook, so you just have to get on with it and know that it will pass.

Of course September will have happy days too!

It started particularly well with a weekend away in Sheffield with bands, music, friends and fun (and, amazingly, no hangover!) The highlight will be next week, a week in my favourite place in Greece with my husband (thanks to Airbnb cancelling our New York accommodation!), during which we’ll celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. Sadly that date is also the day Dad died, but maybe having something to celebrate helps to alleviate the pain a little. We’ll also be in a place that was very special to my Dad, a place he loved, so we’ll raise a glass of wine and eat amazing food and remember him fondly. Then I’ll probably cry and fall into bed drunk!

I’ve posted before about my general disdain for September anyway; purely because it signals the end of summer and beginning of autumn (which is NOT something to get excited about, no matter how much people try to persuade me!) but having a week in the sun to look forward to certainly takes the edge off that.

Thanks, as always, for reading. x

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