Graham Simpson – One man and his blog
Looking back, I can recall various times in life when events have taken me in a direction I could never have imagined. But none of these pivotal moments have been more dramatic or unexpected than the onset of the pandemic.
In February 2020, Yianna and I were enjoying life in our house on Paxos and, thanks to the march forward with technology, I remained actively involved with the team at Simpson Travel’s head office in London. I even had a phone that thought it lived in the UK and allowed me to dial an extension number and speak to them at any time. Bookings were piling in, a strong management team had hold of the reins and the business was going from strength to strength following the Brexit blip of 2019. Life was pretty good and we were headed for a record year.
Fast forward two years and we are looking at a different world. Gone are our lovely offices in Roehampton and, sadder still, we had to say goodbye to some of the exceptional colleagues who brought them to life. As the events of 2020 unfolded, the extraordinarily difficult decisions we had to make in order to protect the business took us in a new direction - but though we lost much, we never lost our soul. Our focus on quality service, local knowledge and attention to detail remains stronger than ever.
It’s true to say, you find out who your friends are in a crisis; much to our joy, we discovered just what a loyal and supportive bunch Simpson Travel clients are. So much so, that a significant number decided to invest in our future, despite all the uncertainties that surrounded travel at the time, and we raised £1.6 million from our Share Placement.
As we begin 2022, the tides have turned again, with January bookings through the roof and demand quite likely to outstrip supply by the end of April. This scenario will take us in yet another direction (a much more positive one – don’t worry, we are already sourcing new properties!) and once again, life teaches me that the best laid plans should always remain open to review.
On a personal level, Yianna and I are embracing the changes too as we begin a new chapter of our lives in Crete. Supporting the company through the pandemic took its toll on our finances and last year, we had to say good bye to Eagle’s Nest - our lovely home on Paxos for more than 20 years. But we are not downcast - just incredibly grateful for the life we enjoyed there and the ability to secure our future.
In fact, the sale itself was serendipitous and Eagle’s Nest never officially went on the market. The day before details were due to be publicised - some friends of friends came to tea and, on learning that we were planning to sell, made us an offer within 24 hours - and that was that. It couldn’t have gone to a nicer family and we hope they will enjoy it as much as we have done, sharing it with their children and grandchildren for many years to come.
However, there is one matter yet to be resolved. Our cats, Ellie and George, still think they hold the title deeds to Eagle’s Nest and are currently lodging there until a suitable home can be found. We ourselves are rather nomadic at the moment, travelling in Crete with no fixed abode, so if anyone reading this would like to take on two elderly felines (14 and 13 years respectively) we would be happy to transport them to the UK safe and sound. They come as a package I’m afraid, much like an old married couple who could never be parted. George is somewhat portly in his dotage but Ellie has retained her youthful physique; both are ‘snipped’ and very well behaved - as far as any cats can be! And of course, what’s important to them is food, affection and a warm, safe place to rest their heads.
And so, although we are going to miss Eagle’s Nest, we plan to return regularly to see friends and enjoy that quintessential ambiance that only a very special island like Paxos can offer. We feel very fortunate to have the freedom to choose our own destiny and this blog is aimed as an introduction to the ongoing adventures of two wrinklies (septuagenarians in fact) as they look to make a new life for themselves by returning to the place where it started all those years ago - with Simply Crete in 1978.
So if it’s of interest, watch this space. I will post regular updates (candid rather than sanitised accounts) detailing how we get on, the challenges we face and exposing my ongoing and rather pathetic attempts to improve my Greek. We’ll also be exploring more of the off-the-beaten-track Greek islands and eventually, I hope, finding a new home to settle for the last chapter of our lives.
To be continued...