The highlight of this week was an old friend, Ricardo Sueiras, coming by to visit on Sunday afternoon. Having seen last week's entry, he reached out once he knew we were in Surrey and offered to drive across from Kent to visit us. It's been a long time since I worked with him, but catching up was very enjoyable. There's beauty in taking opportunities and making decisions in the spur of the moment; we always relish it.
While waiting for him to arrive, we drove into the nearby town of Guildford, a lovely regional centre. As we said after, it's not somewhere you'd typically visit as a tourist, but we were glad that we did. House sitting and travelling slower gives you the opportunity to see things you'd otherwise miss.
After a lot of wet days, the weather finally lifted a bit on Monday and Tuesday, which allowed us to get out of the house more, too. We continued to explore the estate and enjoy the facilities of the house. One amusing encounter was rambling through one of the fields, and a pair of dwarf donkeys came over to say hello. We'd been warned that they might be around, and they were both very familiar with the dogs, so there were no issues there.
One of the fun things about these last few weeks has been living in proper houses again after so long on the boat! It's different from staying at an Airbnb, which is generally quite minimal (even ours). Houses that are lived in attract stuff. They are also big! After living on a boat where everything is never more than two steps away, it was funny how far it felt when you put your coffee cup down; it was always a hike to go and retrieve it. Then your phone would be on the other side of the room. You get your daily steps in living in a house.
We really enjoyed the experience, though, and it's a great off-season contrast to the boat life, so we'll definitely be exploring more house sits in the future. It's a good way to balance our life aboard with something quite different in winter. Both homeowners were exceptionally friendly and gave us gifts as a thank you; it really felt more like a relationship than a transaction.
It was fun being with pets again. They really make you laugh and feel loved. We were initially concerned we'd feel a bit sad about it after Rosie, but it wasn't a problem. They all have very different personalities. For us now, this is the ideal way to get in a bit of pet time without the full-time responsibility when we're on the boat. As much as we enjoyed being with all the dogs, it was a good reminder they are a lot of work. The hardest is having to get out of bed early on a cold morning to let them out!
Finally on Wednesday, it was time to head back to Greece. We left early, about 10 am, only to have that most British of experiences, a traffic jam entering the M25 that slowed us by about forty minutes. Eventually, we arrived at Heathrow, and things generally flowed more smoothly from there. Air France to Amsterdam, hang out there for a while and switch planes for a flight to Athens.
We arrived at Athens around 1.30 am in the morning and, with a 7 am flight to Mytiline, had no real choice but to hang around in the arrivals hall until we could check-in. While it was uncomfortable, it went okay. I think we surprised ourselves with our resilience as we generally don't do overnights at all anymore.
The plane to Mytiline was slightly late; then, as it started to taxi to the runway, the pilot announced there was some error, and we had to taxi back to the stand, bus back to the airport and switch to a different plane, which set us back around two hours. Finally, at about 10.30, we arrived in Mytiline. We've hired a car for the next 11 days so that we can take Jasper around and explore Mytiline ourselves, too.
Matilda was fine, but the door lock was sticking. I pulled it apart today, and a small spring had broken inside the lock mechanism. Off to the locksmiths, only to find that they no longer make or support that style of lock (which, to be fair, was probably US-designed at best and most likely Chinese design), so a whole new lock had to be fitted. This is not a BAD thing. The lock has been sensitive for a while, so having a new one is good, but it was a reminder that something is always breaking on a boat!
Since we've been back, it's been a very chill few days, mostly running around doing lots of errands. An eye test for Karina (all good), a COVID vaccine for me, flu shot for Karina, buying a new quilt and a new quilt cover and lots and lots of food shopping ready for Jasper to arrive on Boxing Day, as well as being prepared for Christmas (shops will be closed here Sunday as per normal and both Christmas and Boxing Day).
A short post this week: there is a lot going on, and we're happy to be back aboard Matilda. Our big excitement this week of course is Jasper arriving, we can't wait to see him! It's been such a long time since we got to spend proper time with him – in fact, he left home at 18 and headed to Australia. Then, with Covid and lockdowns, we were only able to see him once since then; he's almost 22 now. But, now we get a full five days here on the boat, then we'll all be back together (with Ella and Inge) in Athens for New Year and a couple of weeks after.
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas,
Until next time,
Tim & Karina