Monday, 25 September 2017

Crete Diaries 2017 / The Face in the Mirror.

After seeing someone almost every night in Crete while I was on holiday I tried to put myself in their shoes and wrote this story. Of course I don't know their real story and I've probably got it all wrong but I couldn't get this person out of my head until I had written something. Hopefully the real person will never read this but if they do I apologise in advance but this story comes from the heart.


The Face in The Mirror.

I was feeling quite happy when I came out this evening. My usual walk to my usual haunt is uneventful but somehow tonight feels different. Holidaymakers pass me by jostling playfully with each other, having fun. As I get to my spot,the spot where I stand and wait for "friends" I am joined by a man and a woman, maybe in their fifties, I'm not very good at guessing ages. I know they're waiting for the mini bus that will take them back to their hotel. I see different people waiting there every night for a while then they're gone,home to start saving again for their next holiday. The woman smiles at me and tries nor to look as if she's staring but I can tell that she's never seen anyone like me before, she's led a sheltered life.
The man avoids any eye contact with me. I can tell he's uncomfortable standing there within touching distance but that's where the bus stops so he has no other option. 
Usually people looking doesn't bother me but tonight for some reason it does. I feel different to all the other people out and about on holiday. A difference that has nothing to do with me not being on holiday but living and working here.

Tonight is hot and clammy. I think about how I looked in the mirror before I left my bedroom. I have a good figure,long red frizzy hair that could do with conditioning. I'm wearing skin tight jeans and a long t shirt with fringes around the bottom. Red six inch heels make me look even taller than I am. I'm on the wrong side of thirty five but make up works wonders. I look into my face. It's never the face I want to see. I look into the mirror and the face of a man looks back at me.
That's what those people see, a man dressed up as a woman,a man who is standing outside a gent's toilet waiting for business. And they're right! They're completely right! 

The cars pass slowly through the carpark next to the toilets, most because they're looking for that valued space in such a busy place but some because they're looking for someone like me.
Someone like me? Is that what I've become ? A cliche? One of those people who haunts toilets that your mother warns you to be wary of. 
I was born in the wrong body. I've always felt female,I always have been female.
I suppose I'm lucky I've always been tall and slim, no matter what I eat I never put on weight,I know,every girl's dream.
My parents couldn't cope with their son,their blue eyed blonde hair son telling them he was a girl. They're still in denial. I left home at sixteen and lived on the streets for five years. Eventually I was given  a place in a hostel and an address. I found a job in a supermarket and had money for the first time. 
I dressed as a man during this period as it was easier to keep my job and get on with people. Some friends were going on holiday to Crete and the cheap flights enticed me so I went with them and never left.
In Crete I became me again. Most of the time I dressed as the woman I felt I was but to be a complete woman is much more complicated and costs more money than I have. I work on a tourist boat during the day, hair tied up,cap on and at night I apply my make up and untie my hair.
If the right people come along I make good money but it's a dangerous profession, having sex with strangers. My clients are usually married men with 2.4 children. As long as they pay I will let them live they life they want for a few minutes.

I read in the newspaper today about a famous footballer who has undergone a sex change. Everyone says how brave he is,what courage it took for him to tell the world he was born into the wrong body. I felt like crying. He who has millions in his bank account is brave? He who paid for the best plastic surgeon in the world is brave? Oh no! Brave is standing outside a gent's toilet night after night and watching the looks on the faces of normal people going about their normal lives wondering what happened to make you live this life.
Brave is taking money in return for sex and saving and saving. Not eating, not drinking, no drugs,nothing to numb the humiliation of what I do.
Soon, when I have saved enough I will board a plane to Thailand where a surgeon (not the best in the world) will change my body. Facial surgery and fillers will change the shape of my face and my life will begin again.
I will return to Crete as a woman. I will find employment and I will walk past my old haunt and no one will recognise me. I will not stop at the toilets I will walk past. I will smile at the people waiting for the hotel bus. Someone else will be in my place,perhaps someone like me. Someone else hurting as much as I did. As I walk by I will not look back I will only look forward.....one day.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Crete Diaries June 2017 / Last Memories

We've had a heatwave here for the past few days and it's far too hot to do anything but lie in the shade near the pool,read then swim. It's reasonably quite here, plenty of empty sun beds and the youngsters who like to play ball (with a tennis ball) and have a carry on in the pool, anything except swimming, have gone somewhere for the day.
The noise I can hear and which I usually enjoy is the noise of the crickets. The noise is synonymous with being on holiday in a hot country. These crickets however outdo any crickets I've ever heard. I've described them in posts before as, " The gentle chirping of the crickets." But here they sound more like those howling monkeys I've seen on wildlife programmes. The strange thing is the all stop chirping at the same time..and then start all over again. We are under the shade of trees where they probably live but they must be masters of disguise because no matter how hard I look I haven't seen one yet.

The hotel is two miles out of town and at the top of a hill which might be the reason for the beautiful butterflies that flutter around us. They look so regal in their blues,reds,creams and greens. A cream coloured butterfly with black stripes lands on a flowered bush. It has huge wings and I try unsuccessfully to photograph it with my phone. I wish I had brought a proper camera with me.

As I swim in the pool two swifts swoop down for a drink. They think only one of them should drink and like two fighter jets they have a dogfight in the sky. 
Talking of fighter jets, there's an American airfield near Chania  and we can hear the fighter jets flying overhead. The noise is incredible and like the crickets we can very rarely see them.
Three little sparrows line up on the railings at the side of the pool. They take it in turn to bathe in the overflow of water and return to the railings. They ruffle their feathers until the sun dries them and the fly away. This is probably a daily ritual and I feel privileged to have witnessed it.

We have loved being here in Crete and hope to return one day. We have found it to be very much like Turkey and it has made us want to go back there next year,so look out for my Turkey Diaries once again. 
I said people watching gives me inspiration for writing stories and that's what my next post will be,a story I wrote in Crete from something I observed. 
I'll leave you with some photos....including food! 


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Crete Diaries June 2017 ...Who Is He?

Does Anyone Know This Man ? 


While I'm on holiday I like to people watch as I'm sure many other people do. Watching people gives me inspirations for stories.
Hubby and I were having dinner in a restaurant in the old town of Chania. Greek musicians and singers are entertaining us, two men and a woman. The woman is playing what looks like wooden spoons and the men have Greek guitars. We have no idea what they are singing about but most of the songs seem to be soulful and sad.
A man and a woman are sitting at the table in front of us and right in front of the musicians. I would say they are a bit older than us,she has long brown hair and a nice smiley face. He has long grey hair past his shoulders with a long unruly white beard. He has a scowl on his face and we christen him Catweasel (from the sixties children's tv programme )  I must add here that although he is causally dressed like everyone in Chania he is dressed well.
The reason we notice him is,he complains about everything except the music, to that he nods approvingly, mouthing the words to the songs. He goes over and talks to the musicians and leaves money in their tip box but the waiters are not so lucky. 
He sends back his starters,his wine,he complains in a haughty and aloof manner and then it's back to nodding approvingly to the musicians. I'm so glad something makes him happy.



Two nights later we're in a different restaurant with a group of three different musicians. Who comes and sits at the table in front of us and in front of the group? Yes! Catweasel and his partner.
What is the first thing he does? Well after nodding and appreciating the music, he sends back the wine! He sends back a whole litre of the same house wine we are drinking and saying how lovely it is. Wine connoisseurs we are not but I don't think we have ever sent wine back. He complains about his main course again and when the ice cream dish comes,complete with sparklers he makes the waiter take them out of his dish before they have finished burning. I can tell from the waiter's face that they are hot. We decide that the couple are Greek as he converses fluently with the waiters. We think he maybe is a musician himself, a celebrity in Greece or someone rich enough to demand the attention he gets. 
I whisper to my husband, "Imagine having to go to dinner with that grumpy old man every night, what a nightmare!" 
Later in the evening when we were leaving the restaurant Catweasel's partner gave me a lovely smile and said goodnight. So,she can speak English,I wonder if she heard what I said. If she did then I got from her smile that she found it amusing.

A few nights later we celebrated my birthday at the second restaurant. We had just started our meal when Catweasel  and his partner appeared. All we could do was laugh. I think they might be stalking us as we have always been at the restaurants before them. There are hundreds of restaurants in Chania so it is funny we keep choosing the same ones.
Three waiters are around his table in an instant, pulling out chairs, bringing them water and menus. It seems they were expecting him and are well prepared.
He never cracked a smile, just gave them a nod. 
So, do you know Catweasel ? Is he a film star? A musician? A Greek idol? A millionaire? Or just a grumpy old man. 
Who Is He?........
These photos were all taken of the restaurant. It wasn't until I started to write this that I realised he was in them. The bottom one is blown up.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Crete Diaries June 2017. Another Decade Begins.

Today is 30th June, I'm in Crete and tomorrow I will turn sixty. I spend time today thinking and wondering what it means to be entering this new decade.

 TEN

When I turned ten at the end of my first decade I had what I remember as being my first and only birthday party of my childhood. I think on other birthdays I had a cake with my family and was allowed to invite a friend.
There were conditions to this party. No one was invited until about a half hour before it began. The reasoning was, my mum didn't want any of our neighbours to buy presents they could ill afford.
I don't think children's parties were so big back then in 1967 certainly not the way they are today with themes and soft play area and bouncy castles. Oh what we wouldn't have done to jump on a bouncy castle. I did receive a few gifts from girls whose mothers had ran to the corner shop in a rush to buy something for their daughters to bring. I think my mum had just made it harder with the last minute invites but she meant well. They were probably cursing her as most people wouldn't go to a party without at least a card.
When my dad came home from his work a short while after the party started he had seen one solitary child playing in the street at peever. He asked her why she wasn't at the party as she stayed just across the street from us. The truth is we had fallen out and I hadn't invited her. I wasn't best pleased when she appeared at our front door with my dad to join my party. I was taught a few lessons on that tenth year.
A friend's presence is more important than any gift money can buy.
Never leave anyone out. It's awful to be on the outside looking in.

TWENTY

I remember the joy of turning twenty and I was no longer a teenager. It was also the year I would be married so it was a very exciting year. I  had the milestone of my twenty first birthday the following year to look forward and my first as a married lady.

THIRTY

When I turned thirty I had two children of five and three.  I celebrated this birthday by going out for a meal to a Greek restaurant with four of our friends.  I remember being reluctant to leave my twenties behind. I had to be a proper grown-up now.

FORTY

It was party time when I turned forty. After only remembering one party from my childhood I was determined to have one now. We hired a hall and a disco and invited all our friends, it was a great night and I still enjoy looking at the photos. It was marred by the fact that my parents couldn't attend. My dad wasn't feeling well and mum didn't want to leave him. We didn't realise it was the start of something serious and he passed away with a sudden illness a few months later.




FIFTY
I have no recollection how I celebrated my fiftieth birthday. Hubby and I probably went for a meal. I don't think I liked turning fifty and just wanted the day to pass.

SIXTY

HOW do I feel tonight,on the last day I can truthfully say I'm fifty something? Well, I'm on the beautiful Island of Crete, the sun is shining everyday and I have my lovely husband beside me.
 I have two children whom I love dearly and who are happy and settled with their chosen partners and to top that I have three beautiful and amazing granddaughters.
How I feel is thankful. I am thankful that despite not always being in the best of health I'm still here, alive and kicking (although not very high admittedly.)
A few months ago my long time childhood friend passed away very suddenly not long after her 60th birthday. My brother passed away three years ago after a short illness at only 54 yrs old. 
So tonight on the eve of my birthday I am thankful and happy that tomorrow I will have reached the age of sixty. I will swim in the pool here in Crete and hubby and I will go for a special meal tonight and toast absent friends and family,the ones we wish could still be here. When I return home I'm hoping for a small celebration with my family.
Another hope is that when this decade comes to a close I will still be here writing about my seventieth year. Until then I rather agree with the idea that 60 is the new 40!
     


Thursday, 17 August 2017

Crete Diaries June 2017 : Boat trip, Gramvousa and Balos.

A boat trip today to Gramvousa and Balos. A coach picks us up from the hotel to take us to Kissamos where we will be transferred to the boat. The coach took a few detours to pick up passengers at their various hotels. This gives us a chance to see more of the surrounding area and different hotels.
Once we're all aboard it's a pleasant hours journey to Kissamos.

We arrive at the port and the penny has just dropped that we are not going on a boat cruise like the ones we usually do in Turkey where we lie on mattresses on the deck and sunbathe, no nothing like that at all. We are going on a huge ferry with hundreds of other holiday makers. My husband thought there must be about 500 on board.

The ferry journey was enjoyable and there was a self service restaurant where you could buy lunch or soft drinks. We hired a sun umbrella as we were told there was none on Balos beach.
As we embark on Balos beach 500 people try to do so at the same time down two flights of stairs.
We have to negotiate a very rocky uneven ground to get to the beautiful beach. 
It is not beautiful, it is Stoney and rocky and what sand is there is boiling hot.

We spread out towels on the rocky sand and put up the umbrella crawling under it searching for some shade.  Ouch! Oh! No! Lying on stones? No way I can't have that. I'm turning sixty during this holiday, I'm far too old to be lying on a bed of stones I need a comfortable padded sunbed and preferably a large cold drink in one hand and a book in the other. No chance !

"Let's go for a swim to cool down." Getting into the water was like one of those challanges on I'm a Celebrity. First we had to cross the boiling hot sand full of sharp hot pebbles. Next came the slippery chunks of sea grass, and then the hidden holes beneath the water where I fell and jarred my knee. 
Before the water was quite deep enough to swim in you had to just throw yourself in. 
The water was ice cold. All we could do was laugh as we looked around at the amount of people in the water,on the beach perfoming the walk on hot sand dance to get to the sea. After a short swim we did the same walk again in reverse and went back to the boat. The stop there was for an hour, ha ha, we lasted about 30 mins.


Balos beach.You can't see what the ground is like underwater here. I read that the earth here is always sinking and shifting so maybe that's the reason for deep holes in the water. They might have told us!

There are ruins of a Venitian castle at the top of that hill. Needless to say I didn't attempt it but many did,maybe it was better than trying to get into the sea. 



Next stop was Gramvousa, the island of pirates (I have no idea why)
This we are told had a beautiful sandy beach listed as one of the best beaches in the world. It also has sunbeds. Yes, it had 15 sunbeds for our 500 plus people and the visitors who are already there when we arrive. The walk to the beach was just as bad as the first,like walking on land where there had been an earthquake and I found it very challenging.
All the sunbeds were full but we lasted a bit longer here by about ten minutes. The sand was a little softer but eventually my bones were too sore to lie any longer so we went back to the ship. As I was sitting on the sand and running my hands through it I found the tiniest shells I have ever seen and I brought them home for my shell collection in my beach themed bathroom. I've just seen online that you are not allowed to take the shells from the beach. Oh well no one told me!

On the journey home we inadvertently sat behind the bench where the children's entertainer did her stuff. She was dressed as a clown with a slightly scary face and wearing glasses, she was also the most annoying person ever. She made more noise than all the children put together between blowing a high pitched whistle and screetching. The clown was making balloon animals for the children and made quite a good job of them after her third or fourth attempt at each one. I felt sorry for the parents who had to travel back to their hotel with huge balloon flamengos, dogs and swords. It would have been so much quieter if she had given them iPads.

So we have learned today that when in Greece as in Turkey make sure you know what kind of boat trip you are signing up for. Ask how many people will be on board and if you will be sunbathing on hard rocks or sunbeds. 
We have been disappointed a few times in both Turkey and now Crete with beaches we have been told are beautiful and turned out not to be. Imagine if they saw some of the beaches we have in the UK. The only thing we can't provide here is the sunny weather. 


This is the second beach the beautiful one! 

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Crete Diaries; June 2017: The Old Town of Chania.

Chania old town is full of charm. It has everything I like all rolled into one. Just outside the old town there is a indoor market. This building is built in the shape of a cross with butcher stalls occupying one wing,fishmongers another, fruit shops and clothes and souvenirs the other two. There are also a few cafes dotted around. I don't fancy having coffee in the one across from the fishmongers.

It has been there since 1913 although they started building it in 1908. It was also occupied during the war by German soldiers,so quite a history which is why it's a listed building.

I love the smells of these markets as you move from butchery to fruit to fish and then to spices. The decoration of the stalls and the creative way everything is set out is a work of art.
Oh I forgot the cheese stalls.



And handbags...lots and lots of handbags.
Walk behind the market past some designer shops then we find the old town. Each street has lots of smaller streets leading off from it and eventually leading to the Venetian Harbour looking out to sea.

As I wander through these streets the smell of leather is so strong it makes me suspicious. I know that not all these bags are leather,so do they have cans of air freshener will the smell of new leather? I wouldn't be surprised if they did. The smell draws me into those shops but as in Turkey most shopkeepers won't let you look, they want to sell,to show you things. I don't know about you but it takes forever for me to choose a handbag and what I don't need is someone in my face while I'm choosing so I came home without a new bag.
The pottery and ceramic shops are in abundance. They make you wish you had more than 20 kg luggage allowance. The colours are magnificent.
Other shops contain the usual souvenirs you will find in any holiday resort the world over. I suspect there is a huge factory in China making them and putting different place names on.

We enjoyed sitting having a drink in the restaurants (of which there are plenty) around the Harbour,in fact that is hubby's hand photo bombing my picture. People watching is a great pastime and you do see some sights! 

The Venetian Harbour was built by the Venetians probably around the years 1320/1356. Many towns around Crete have harbours like this. There is also a building that was a Mosque built in 1625 when the Turks captured Crete. It hasn't been used as a Mosque since 1923 and is now a gallery for displaying local artwork. 



There are just as many clothes shops as there are fancy goods in both the new and old town. Some must be designer as they look very posh inside with no prices and very few rails of clothes. As I look in the window that old saying runs through my head, "If you have to ask the price you can't afford it."
I see many items I can't afford! 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Crete Diaries 2017 : Flying and Arriving

June 2017.

I know that one day I will not want to fly again.It's not a pleasant way to travel but if you want to chase the sun you have to grin and bear it.
Flights are becoming more unbearable. Straight back hard seats, less legroom than ever before. The table that I unfold from the seat back in front of me slopes towards me, well good luck with the hot tea Anne. 
I'm thinking to myself, " Whatever happened to the little string bag which usually sits below the pull down table and holds the in-flight magazine and a sick bag?"
It was a place to pop your book or magazine into and a packet of mints or glasses case. Goodness there's not enough room to move and now they've taken away our little storage place.This is the second flight we've been on that hasn't had one. The flight attendant hands a flight magazine to everyone. Ours is a bit chewed around the edges probably by a child who was bored and it's a bit sticky too but they have to flog their food,drinks and duty free goods so they don't seem to care what they are handing out to us. 
At the end of the four and a half hour flight the same attendant comes to collect the magazines. Everyone seems to have done the same as us and put it on the floor at the window and they have now travelled under seats. He didn't collect many but as I leave the aircraft I see magazines scattered around the floor, lost and forgotten probably looking for the little string bags on the back of seats that used to be their home. 
It will take the cleaners longer to clean the aircraft crawling around looked for the sticky, chewed magazines!

Our plane landed in Chania ,Crete st 6:30 pm,Greek time was 8:30pm and it was getting dark.
Our taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was only 20mins and my first thoughts on Greek soil were,
"This looks like Turkey."
Turkey,my favourite place to be, where because of recent unrest we had decided to try some other countries,last year was Malta. I don't suppose any Greek or Turkish person would be too happy at me saying they look similar but each day of our holiday we were to find more and more similarities.

We received a great welcome at the hotel where the manager asked if I was Scottish (I am). He said he knew because of my frequent use of the word lovely (when asked what we thought of the hotel,the view etc.) 
I now find that I do say lovely if asked about how I like something. I will need to invest in a thesaurus and find some other words to replace it, I can't be stereotyped.

The hotel sits at the top of a hill overlooking the town of Chania (pronounced Hanya )with it's sweeping Venetian harbour. What a beautiful (lovely!) view from the balcony.
A few drinks at the bar and then sleep after our long journey.
Tomorrow we will investigate Chania.



LOVELY :  beautiful,pretty,attractive,marvellous, wonderful .....