A year ago I was looking forward to late January because Johnny and I had pushed our financial boat out and were treating ourselves to 10 days on an island in the Indian Ocean. Christmas had been marked in the diary and it was celebrated but there were differences because last year was the first year we gathered without Johnny's dad being there. We never mentioned him on the day because that was how Johnny's mum seemed to want it. Along with my presents and my shopping I took a huge cold back to Germany with me and I spent the first week in bed and then it seemed to take ages to recover from it and there was a point where I worried that I wouldn't be well enough to enjoy our holiday, but I did. I really did. It was a fantastic time and it set us up for the relentless cold and dark of February. During February I hatched a plan with one of my friends to have a trip late in the year and so the dark days were brightened by ideas of what we'd do later in the year.
During February and March I spent a lot of time looking for a property for us and we finally settled on our tiny Devon cottage with its great big view. It was in March that I started visiting Petra in the nursing home and it was on a sunny April afternoon I sat with her as she died. At the end of April I met Frau Gruber for the first time and continued to visit her once a week for a few months. In May I planned a breakfast club for a school and spent too many early mornings visiting the school but then in September was told that the project would be run by another organisation. I carried on with the Tafel having various fallings-out with people there but, on the whole, enjoying it and feeling that I was doing a good thing.
In April my Steingarten was finally built and I spent hours mulching, digging and planting. It was great fun.
At the end of June we went back to England to complete on the purchase of our cottage and in the days before we completed we stayed in a small country house hotel of the type that I have always wanted to run. It was up for sale and I spent a few days doing back-of-the-envelope calculations as to how I could afford to buy it. I threw the envelopes in the bin and moved into the cottage and at the end of a perfect fortnight left to go back to Germany. It was the first time that I felt that I didn't want to go back. There seemed to be nothing that I wanted to go back to and I started to seriously question how I would spend the next few years there. That was on the Sunday and on the Monday Johnny got a telephone call from the headhunter: what about Greece and Athens for five years?
July was about the telephone calls between Johnny and the new company, about the subterfuge and making plans for a secret trip to Athens. In August we took the secret trip to Athens and sweltered our way around a city that no sane person travels to in the months of July and August. it is testament to Johnny's reputation that the big boys were all rounded up for the meetings during that time. And so we returned from Athens feeling excited and stressed waiting for what they would eventually offer Johnny to go. During this time we pretended that life was going on as usual and I went back to England to find furniture for our cottage. That weekend was when the offer arrived and I stood on the steps of Poundhouse looking over the valley talking to Johnny on the phone as we agreed that we'd go off to Greece for the next few years.
September was when Johnny left the company; the company that had moved us out of the UK to Switzerland and then to Germany. They didn't let him work his notice and so we started our gap period with a tour of Dresden and the east of Germany. After this we flew back to England for my birthday and then took a trip to Switzerland and followed this up with a road trip from Germany to England via Holland, Belgium and France. This was followed by a crazy week in Athens while we looked for a house and then at the end of October we came back to Germany and settled down for a couple of weeks and then I flew to Florence to complete the plan that had been hatched in February. After Florence it was straight into three weeks of Abschiedfeiren and leaving parties. On the 6th December we flew out of Frankfurt to Athens, on the 11th December we moved into our new apartment and on the 21st December we flew back to England to celebrate Christmas with the family. Our second year without Johnny's dad.
This year has been exciting and frantic with touches of sadness but with far more enjoyment than anything else. I know that I'm very lucky and I have a great deal to be thankful for; not least the wonderful J but also his family and our friends. I would like to think that next year I shall become the better person I always want to be, that I will become less selfish, less self-centred and more tolerant and understanding of those around me. But I probably won't. I will however have a great new adventure to start.
I'd like to wish you all a wonderful christmas and all the very best for the new year.