How do you measure wealth? I will give you a clue it has nothing to do with bank accounts, real estate or in fact anything to do with any kind of material wealth. Real wealth doesn’t have a price tag or a barcode.
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Christmas is behind us. The last Brussels sprout has been devoured, the needles have started to fall from the Christmas tree and Ruldoph and his red nose have left the building.
My wife and I travelled outside of the European Union and back to the island of my birth for the festive season. We might have been sneakily hoping for a white Christmas, instead we got a blue one, as the skies matched the colour of the Adriatic in the summer.
As we did last year the whole extended family rented a large country house, this time in rolling hills near the border of Wales, so that we could all be together under one roof. And just as last year it was “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Our house in the country - Photo Mark Thomas
Three generations all mixing, like a well-blended cocktail. Christmas as it should be. Not Home Alone but rather a Full House.
All of the traditional English Christmas traditions were followed. From mistletoe hanging over the front door to gathering around watching the King’s speech, the first time King Charles III has made that festive message.
We ate and drunk far too much and promises of diets and detoxs after Christmas were flying around.
The last time we were in England we had just walked over 1,200 kilometres. And old habits die hard. So every day my wife and I were out with the dogs in the countryside doing a few kilometres. It is so much easier when you aren’t carrying your world on your back in a 15 kg rucksack.
We just spotted a young dear in the hedgerow - Photo Boba Thomas
Now Christmas is a time of giving. It is better to give than to receive. So just as last Christmas we all decided to do a secret Santa, rather than speed stupid amounts of money on multiple presents.
We limited the maximum price to 20 pound and the one other condition was that the present had to be bought in a charity shop. Clearly it was almost impossible for us to buy from a charity shop. As you know there isn’t one charity shop, second hand shop or vintage shop in Dubrovnik. So we had to do our shopping in England. A) - It is surprising what you can buy with only 20 pound. And B) - there are lots and lots of charity shops.
But that wasn’t all we got this Christmas. We all got a group “present.” My brother-in-law had a particularly nasty cold/flu, which had a side effect of him losing his voice. Not Covid but more like a ninja flu. And no, the present wasn’t a silent brother-in-law.
Clearly all being together in the same house meant it was going to be a problem to avoid the virus. And try as we might we all started to cough a little, sneeze a little and generally feel achy. Fortunately we all didn’t get sick until the day before we were supposed to leave.
As I said, Christmas is a time of giving, and we were all given a virus! Now it is time to look forward to the New Year, although we could well be in bed with temperatures. As I said real wealth isn't measured in banknotes, but rather with the warm hug of the family being around you, especially at Christmas.
A New Year that brings a lot of change for Croatia, one could say a New European Year. I, for one, am excited for 2023. It is a time of new opportunities and new challenges. I just need to lose this virus first!
Happy New Year to you all
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to