I was living on the Greek island of Spetses, my first Christmas alone, following the death of my partner.
Many islanders had invited me to join their celebrations but respected my refusals.
My closest neighbours were a family of five. Swiss born Esther, Greek husband, Christos and three daughters, Irene, Sylvia and Constantina.
They were to go to their house in Epidavros on Christmas Eve but a storm had blown up and the port was closed.
They set about preparing their festive meal, according to Esther’s custom, on Xmas Eve.
They invited me to join them. I was more than willing.
The three girls were all my students and Esther was fast becoming a close friend.
Various salads and vegetables accompanied lamb chops cooked over an open fire.
Homemade sweets and biscuits followed.
Then came the present exchange.
Each of the girls received her chosen gift.
Irene a wristwatch, Sylvia the latest Harry Potter, Constantina a novelty bedroom wall clock.
The children’s gifts to us were all handmade.
Dad’s was a pipe stand made from stiff card, painted to resemble wood, Mum’s a round mirror rescued from the tip, cleaned and resplendent in a colourful frame of homemade paper flowers.
A picture frame of corrugated paper with decorative surround of broken mosaics in pinks and mauves.
From its centre three young faces smiled out at me.
The actual frame has not survived my travels.
The picture and contact with the three girls has.
And I still remember a gift made and given with love.