The art of keeping things simple…
… does it really affect the outcome? Does it really matter?
‘Keep it simple’ is a mantra I often have in mind. I approach situations with the intention of doing just that, but never seem to actually follow it. We all have our natural traits: in my case, I find it very natural to strike up a conversation with a stranger, or to bring a group together. I really like people, and I really like people to feel included and welcome. Therefore, I often take it upon myself (whether it’s needed or not!) to make sure everyone is ok. For others, the thought of speaking to a stranger would be enough to bring them out in a cold sweat.
There are those who are able to pick up a book and immediately enter in to that ‘flow state’, becoming completely immersed in their tome, seemingly oblivious to everything else that is unfolding around them. As much as I love to read, my busy brain makes it as difficult as possible for me to slip in to that delicious state of lengthy absorption, as I find myself distracted by my cup of tea/phone/scribbling notes/daydreaming. “Hmm, what did that paragraph say?”, “ I must re-read that… again”. For me, my genial talent for extreme faffing makes the art of keeping things simple comparable to creating a masterpiece. But hey, isn’t creativity fun?!
Last week my family came to spend time with me in my ‘new life’. The general way of life is way simpler here, and I do feel more relaxed on the whole, though still hang on to my knack for weaving complexity in to the most routine of tasks. The beautiful trio — my sister, brother-in-law, and niece — had so far enjoyed a great holiday — the simplicity of lounging on the beach, splashing around in the pool, and sampling the offerings of the local tavernas. Not good enough for me though! I wanted them to see the west coast, I wanted them to have adventures, I wanted them to experience the culture… and I wanted to be the one to make that happen!
The itinerary was set for an afternoon of adventure: dramatic coastlines, rocky coves, pristine beaches and deserted villages. Oh the excitement of it all! Out we headed — me at the wheel — climbing the route of one of my usual bike rides. Seeing my sister gripping the passenger door handle wasn’t quite the reaction I’d hoped for, nor was her whispered “a bit near the edge aren’t we sis?”. I felt a little miffed, after all I was in control here! We drove for half an hour or so before the road levelled off and we reached the top. An amazing panorama surrounded us — sweeping pine forests to the east, dramatic cliffs to the west. However my miffed-ness stepped up a notch as the “oohs” and “ahhs” of admiration were still not forthcoming. All I sensed was a general air of indifference… boredom even. Pah! I ploughed on — no way I was going to let the opportunity of ‘sharing’ my love for the great outdoors with my kinfolk! I just needed to get them round to my way of thinking!
I eventually spotted a sign for Kathisma — the first of the ‘cute villages’ on my itinerary. We forked off the ‘highway’ and began our descent towards the village. Hairpin after hairpin followed, and with an unnervingly still silent car we finally reached the village. I thought it best to pass the village by and continue to the beach, surmising the trio just needed a little time to chill on the sand before continuing with their cultural awakening. ‘Beach — 4km’ read the next sign. Almost there! From here the hairpins became more… hairpinny. So much so that on a couple of occasions I had to reverse the car and have a second attempt to navigate them. “Never fear, I’ll persevere!” I thought. By now the silence was deafening. Worryingly so. Even the metronomic back seat wimpers of “oh my god” from by brother-in-law had ceased. I glanced round and noticed my sister’s face — ashen in hue and anxious in expression. This was not going at all as planned. It would be fair to say that the next sign ‘narrow road — big problem!’ came 2km too late for us. We rounded the next hairpin to find Greek gridlock and an Italian motorist crafting an elaborate double-figure-point turn in an attempt to double back, assisted by her now pedetrian passenger gesticulating wildly to direct her attempts at avoiding a downhill roll. My family also decided to jump ship at this point, leaving me at the wheel. My usually chilled, balanced sister was, by now shaking and crying. Her quivering “I can’t get back in there, I’m walking back” rang in my ears. My niece was overheating and rather bemused by the entire episode. I felt absolutely dreadful. What had I done to them?!
I found some space to manoeuvre the car away from the gridlocked masses, taking stock whilst I waited for the continental chaos to abate. I managed to turn the car around and headed back uphill, finding a somewhat less-precarious spot where I waited for my footmen to arrive. They soon arrived and, to my surprise, willingly got back in the car. The journey resumed — before they could change their mind — fuelled by massive guilt on my part, and with a significantly less ambitious schedule. A schedule that didn’t involve vertical descents or the need for ejector seats. We were soon giggling at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Phew!
We soon reached the lovely village of Xanthia and stopped for drinks. Strong coffee for me, strong beer for the adult family contingent, sugary pop for the young one. The sustenance restored our wits as we sat and watched those who actually chose to scare themselves witless as they took running jumps to hurl their paraglider-bedecked frames from the cliff edge. Madness.
My plan had always been to eventually find somewhere to watch the famous west coast sunset, though it had never involved any lounging by the pool. However given the earlier events I conceded this was probably what was needed right now… and valuable currency for retaining my my place in the family. And I knew the perfect place to do just that. We arrived in the village of Athani, pulling up to a the appropriately named ‘Serenity’ with its infinity pool and laid back, bohemian vibes. They loved it! I surprised myself by chilling out too. No plans, no challenges, no adventures, just sitting, relaxing… even snoozing! How simple is that?!
After two simply chilled hours we took a lazy stroll to a nearby taverna, where we shared plates of mouth-watering local delicacies whilst watching the sunset. The views were breath-taking, the food delicious, the company just perfect. A sense of just how special this moment was shared by us all. We giggled as we recounted the afternoon’s events: thankful that all had turned out well and agreeing that our evening would have ended elsewhere, had it not been for the diversion of our dramatic drive.
And so the day ended as I’d hoped it would: four happy people with memories of a wonderful day. We shared an evening of splendid simplicity, despite my best attempts to make it altogether more… ‘interesting’. I guess this is one of the traits that make me… me. Maybe I was born to be Little Miss Faff-A-Lot. Though once I’ve indulged that natural tendency most situations end in simplicity. Maybe that’s my ironically creative approach to managing the art of keeping things simple. And maybe that’s simply fine.