Sunday, 3 July 2011

JULY 2011

Firstly, I am issuing a warning. This is going to be a long one, so either give up now and go and do something more worthwhile, or make yourself a cup of tea, pour yourself a glass of wine and settle down for a bit. 

So, Amazing People, here I am at the end of my sojourn in Cyprus and I can honestly say it has been the happiest two years of my life. I have had a fabulous time and I have learnt so much about myself that I am not the same person who arrived here. 

I am aware I haven’t written anything for months, but I think I need angst to write and my life is fairly angst-free these days. Obviously there are the everyday worries that everyone in the world has, but I seem to have learnt to view them in a detached manner. I only hope it is a permanent change and not one that is dependent on sunshine or, as I believe a great philosopher once wrote: ‘I’m fucked!’ (Or was that: ‘Naughty, naughty, very naughty’ an in-joke for all you Shamen fans, of which I believe there are two of us!)

Way back in March two of my oldest chums (oldest as in I have known them a long time, they are only spring-chickens really), Stuart and Becky, came to stay to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary and I had a lovely time with them. It was nice to play the tourist for a few days. We pootled around the area and did some sightseeing and ate and drank a great deal. Stuart brought his usual luck with him and we won twice at the bingo and then won the quiz - luckily the Pin let me back in the next week as I didn’t have them with me! However, by far the best comedy moment took place on the balcony. Stuart, who is only marginally less accident-prone than myself, and I were chilling out having breakfast whilst Becky was in the shower. The March sun was beautiful and warming and I suggested he used the sun lounger to make the most of it. ‘Will it take my weight?’ ‘Of course it will, it takes mine, go on you know you want to. No, pull it forward, no, further forward...’ CRACK! and there he was prone on the balcony as the arms rusted through and gave way beneath him. It is a good job that the complex was fairly empty as my laughter at the look of complete shock and surprise on his face as he felt himself go was incredibly loud and incredibly long. Becky came out of the shower to see what had happened as she could hear my laughter over the thunder of the water. Apparently their friends had all been having bets on what Stuart would break while he was away – generally a part of his body, or, quite frankly, wind!, but I don’t think that anyone had guessed that it would be my sun lounger. 

When I had seen them back in the UK last August we had gone to watch their son and my nephew play cricket and to cut a long story short there was a friend of theirs who for reasons far too intricate to go into now we named Dave’s Finger, International Man of Mystery. My mum always makes a calendar of my nephew every year to send out to family around the world so we can see how he has grown over the last year. Stuart was flicking through it and he suddenly shouted out: ‘Dave’s Finger!’ I was completely non-plussed for a moment. I had had a picture on my wall of Dave’s Finger for the last four months and hadn’t even known it. He truly is an International Man of Mystery. He may turn up in your house next, beware! 

Moving on to April, nothing much happened of interest, apart from the fact that it was my birthday and whilst nothing exciting happened, here is the big thing – nothing bad happened either! That is a first for me. I had a very pleasant day, a lovely meal with friends in the evening and no-one died, nothing blew up and my heart didn’t break. Utterly brilliant! 

In May I went to Nicosia with Lynn, Jonathan, Lisa and Neil to see Deep Purple. Ian Gillan is another of the long-haired, gravelly-voiced dirty old men of whom I am very fond. His voice does things to my insides that I am not sure are legal. Ok, so they are in their mid-sixties, his hair is now short and grey and he has to have a lie down during the guitar solos, but he can still belt out a tune and I loved it. The concert was a double-bill with Greek singing legend (apparently) Vasilis Papakonstantiniou being on for the first couple of hours. He is absolutely huge in Greece and it was really weird being at that part of the concert. It was like we had wandered into somewhere by mistake and found ourselves in the middle of a cult where we didn’t know the procedure or the words. Six thousand people were singing along word for word with Mr. Papakonstantiniou and the five of us were just gazing around open-mouthed. I thought it was ok, although not really my thing, but what was amusing was seeing the expression on Lynn’s face, which was just one of absolute disgust. If she had held a sign up saying: ‘and what the fuck do you call this?’ she couldn’t have been clearer. Neil was also very amusing. The Cypriot who was sitting next to him had obviously noticed the expression on his face too and asked him if he was enjoying it. Neil, subtle as a brick as always, said: ‘no, I think he’s terrible!’ thereby offending six thousand Cypriots simultaneously. She was trying to explain to him that the lyrics were full of meaning and when Neil politely said ‘oh, just like David Hasslehoff’ I don’t think she got the irony. How we got out of there alive I will never know. What was fabulous, however, was seeing Cypriot teenagers all dressed like Bruce Dickinson from 1984, singing along with Deep Purple and going mad to ‘Hush’. A sight I will remember for many years. 

My mother has put up with a lot from me over the years, but when she came to stay with me in May, I still had the complete Ian Gillan/Deep Purple Discography on loop (in fact I still do) and I think if she had to hear me singing along to ‘Anyone’s Daughter’ once more she might have exploded. Luckily, she has a switch in her head that tunes out anything that is of no interest to her, and so she managed to survive. Without that switch I doubt she would have got through the last 48 years of being a mother to the three of us! 

May was the month I realised it was time to go back to the UK. Obviously with the exchange rate as it is at the moment and the general increase in the cost of living it has been a bit tight for the last few months. I am very clear about what I need in my life and so I don’t spend money on clothes, or shoes. I certainly don’t spend money on paying for TV channels, and I live quite simply. This way I can occasionally do things like go to see Deep Purple, which to me brings quality to my life, rather than spend the same amount on a pair of shoes. Sadly, it had now got to a point where it was becoming untenable. I was fighting on, because I knew that my health is so much better here, but one morning I woke up and that familiar feeling was in my solar plexus – a true gut feeling – saying to me that my time here was up and it was time to move on. I have learnt to listen to this feeling as it always takes me on the right path, even if I don’t know why I need to do it at that particular point. The decisions I have made in my life that I have agonised over and tried to look at in detail have always ended up being disastrous, so I now know that I just have to trust myself. I spent the day chanting on it, making my mind clear and sitting with the idea and it just became stronger and stronger, so that was it, decision made and the next day I started putting the wheels in motion. I had to give two months notice, hence having to stay until now, and I am very glad as I have had such a fabulous time for the last two months. 

My mother wanted to make sure she had her holiday before I left and so she came out for a week towards the end of May. It was a good excuse to eat a lot of Kleftiko and other Cypriot delicacies. I wanted her to have as much of a rest as possible, but she did help me pack the stuff I wouldn’t be needing over the last five weeks. My spatial awareness is so utterly rubbish that I knew she would be able to fit at least a billion times more in each suitcase than I would (no hyperbole there at all, honest!) hence meaning that the number of cases I would need to take back would be far fewer and as my brother, may 1000 blessings fall on his head, had said he would cover the cost of that, I didn’t want to go mad. She also only bought half a suitcase full out with her and so was able to take a few books back for me. I have managed to get it down to about 65 books I really can’t live without, which considering there were about 3000 in my house in Totnes, I don’t think is bad. In the end I have managed to fit everything I own in the world into 4 suitcases and a portable massage table, which I think is fabulous. In fact the less I own, the freer I feel. I am getting less and less reliant on possessions and attachment as I get older and am more than happy just to let things pass through my life. 

While my mum was here we borrowed a car off some friends, which although it was an older car, was no older than most of the cars on the road here. I asked them if it would get us to Nicosia, as I wanted to take my mum across the Green Line at Ledra Street so we could go to the Hamas, which was once the caravan watering place – much like a coaching inn in the UK. It is a beautiful and very cool place to sit and have a cold drink and watch the world go by. Pat checked the engine, the water and the oil and said he didn’t see why it wouldn’t. We got 20 kms outside Nicosia and my mum said very calmly: ‘is there anywhere we can pull over?’ I said I was sure we could find a village at the next turn off, as I thought she just needed the toilet, or a drink or something. She then told me she had heard a hiss, the temperature gauge had hit the big red H and there appeared to be steam coming out of the engine! Luckily, neither of us is the type to outwardly panic, no matter how worried we may be inside, so we carried on slowly until the next turning and managed to find a petrol station. I went in and got three litres of water and once the engine had cooled down we poured it in. We looked under the car but couldn’t see any water coming out, so we didn’t think it was a leak. We discussed it and decided that now it was full of water it was probably safer to carry on to Nicosia as it was so close and then leave the car there to cool down for a few hours. We got five minutes up the road and the needle flew up again and the hissing resumed. We managed to get into the next village, my mum cruised into a space and the engine gave out. Luckily I had noticed the name of the village and we were fairly near a Lidl, so I could use that as a landmark. The car had breakdown cover and I have to say they were brilliant. We only had to wait about 40 minutes and then with no nonsense he winched the car on the back of the truck, indicated to us to get in and proceeded to drive us back across the island. He spoke hardly any English and my Greek is execrable. So we just grinned a lot at each other. Well it was all worth it, the ride home was such fun. We were high up, so we got a great view. There were no seatbelts, and I have to say I now understand why people made such a fuss when seatbelts were made compulsory – it is so much more fun without them, if not terribly safe. His speedometer didn’t go under 130km all the way back and he was on the phone most of the time, so only one hand on the wheel. Some police motorbikes overtook us at one point – so goodness knows what speed they were doing – and we just looked at each other, said ‘Astonymia’ (Greek for police) and shrugged our shoulders in the universal language for ‘what a bunch of prats!’ I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Poor Pat was mortified that the car had broken down on us, but he had checked it before we left and it turned out that a valve (or something, I really don’t have a clue about stuff like that) had disintegrated, so he couldn’t have foreseen it. We won the snowball at the bingo at the Pin on the Sunday which meant that we had enough money to hire a car for a couple of days and go to Nicosia anyway. 

So that brings me to my last month in Cyprus and I have not stopped partying for the whole of it. I have told my mother that when I get back I will probably not be conscious for at least a month! Still, I know that I am going to have to hibernate during the British winter, so I thought I might as well enjoy myself in the sunshine now, while I can. I am only existing on adrenalin at the moment, but it will carry me through for a bit longer yet, as I have been storing sunlight in my virtual solar panels for so long now it has given me the energy boost when I need it. 

Also, as always seems to be the way, I have started to meet people in the last few months that I wish I had time to get to know better. But I am aware how fortunate I am that I have had even this amount of time with them. Gill, who I volunteered at Helping Hands with, and I, have become groupies of a band called Johnnie and the Jets. Well, sort of. Johnnie is our friend Kerry’s partner, and so we have gone along to their gigs at the Olympic Hotel in Agia Napa to support the band. They are all brilliant fun to be with. Charlie, the drummer, has such interesting stories of his time playing with bands in the 70s and 80s and apart from that is just a great bloke. Christine and Roger, Jeanette and Gary, Terry, Sue and Stan - all such a laugh. Gill’s son Clayton and his mate Dean came over to stay for the Napa Live festival a couple of weeks ago and they came out with us. At this time of year I drink wine and soda as it is cool and refreshing, so when it came to Dean’s round that is what I asked for. He came back with a pint glass with a straw and when I sipped it there was definitely no soda! Apparently they must just have completely misheard him and they just poured a bottle of wine into a pint glass, shoved a straw in and handed it over. I seemed to be ok and managed to have a good-natured discussion with Dean about the evils of MacDonald’s all the way back home. Anyway, if you are in Napa go and see Johnnie and the Jets, every other Wednesday at the Olympic. It is refreshing to see musicians rather than just a cabaret act. 

Gill, Kerry, Christine, Jeanette, Liverpool Sue and I went out to the Biker’s Festival on Saturday night, which was also great fun. The band that was on there actually played some music I could dance to. Metallica, Black Sabbath, Pearl Jam, Guns n Roses. It was such a relief to have a jolly good mosh instead of constant Motown. I actually quite like Motown, but I don’t think I will listen to it for a long time after I leave Cyprus as I seem to have heard nothing but that for nearly 2 years. The other song I will not miss is ‘Penny Arcade’ by Roy Orbison. I didn’t even know this song existed before I moved here, but everywhere you go someone insists on doing it for karaoke! Why, people, why?! It is mental cruelty, stop it now before it is too late. I am hoping that once I leave these shores I will never be put through that again. 

I have also spent quite a lot of time with Jenny over the last month, which has been wonderful. She is often so busy working that it is quite rare that I get to see very much of her, but she has made a real effort to fit me in and we have had some very entertaining evenings together and some very illuminating conversations. 

My Buddhist chums Davide and Ghislaine left the island this week to move to Djibouti and I went with Buddhist Sue to their farewell party in Nicosia. This brings me onto another thing that I really love about Cyprus. There must have been at least 5 languages being spoken at the party and yet we all found stuff to converse about. I had a wonderful conversation with a guy my age called Boris about a band called My Dying Bride. They are his favourite group and I listened to them a bit in the early 90s. But what is great is that two 35 year olds, one of whom grew up in the UK and one in Bulgaria, were sitting in a garden in Cyprus, in the home of a half Belgian/half Congolese and Italian couple, drinking Spanish wine and Russian Vodka discussing a rock band they both listened to when they were 16. That, my friends, is how we stop war, by discussing music and finding common ground. You can’t shoot someone when you have both moshed with teenage angst to the same tune!

One of the ways I can tell I am running on adrenalin and not living mindfully is that my clumsiness is at a high again. Something very important I have learnt about myself here is that to live a happy and healthy life I have to make sure that I have 70% of my time in rest, solitude and tranquillity, so that I can live 30% of it being the fun, vibrant Catherine that people are used to. My mother staying here for a week gave me a bit of a shock as I thought I was healthier than I actually am, having lived my life by this 70/30 rule for about a year now. She is great and makes no demands on me, but just the physical energy expended when there is someone else in your living space makes a big difference and I can only function really well if I can be in isolation for a good chunk of each day. It was a good pointer her being here and is now something else I can be aware of. The day after I made my decision to go back to the UK I had so many things going through my head that I wasn’t taking the time to think clearly and do things one at a time. I stood up having just been emailing my landlord, to go to the kitchen, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted my washing on the balcony and decided to get that in and at full speed I walked straight into my glass patio doors. It was a beautiful moment. I literally bounced off them and flew backwards in quite a graceful arc, leaving a mark on the glass where my head had collided with them. I sat on the floor for about 20 minutes alternately holding my head and giggling. Then on Thursday I coloured in the chips of my nail polish before I started chanting so that they could dry without me doing something for the next half hour. I then had one of my bright ideas and thought I would hasten the drying process by holding my nail over the candle flame. This was working fine until my concentration completely wandered. My hand must have been gradually getting lower and lower and the next thing I knew there were flames shooting out of my thumb nail! I couldn’t blow them out because I was laughing too much, not to mention still trying to chant! Another thing I have begun to understand about my dyspraxia is that my mind does not understand consequence. If I sit down and work something out logically of course I know what will happen, I am not unintelligent. I know that fire and nail polish do not mix. I know not to walk into doors. I know that if I bend over just there I will head butt a shelf. I know if I pick the middle book in the stack of 50 that the rest will fall on my head. Unfortunately when I am in the moment my brain just looks at that book, says that’s the one I want, grabs it and then sits there in surprise as book by book land upon me!

Another revelation I had about my life in the last month is a big one for me. I have long said that I did not need or want a relationship in my life, however, that is easy to say when I haven’t met anyone I actually wanted – it is like me saying how good I am being not buying particular brands of sportswear because of their sweatshop use, I mean when was the last time I bought a pair of trainers! It doesn’t really make a difference to my life. Anyway, a few weeks ago I met a wonderful man; the first man in Cyprus I have been really attracted to. He was just my type: in his mid 40s, a totally dodgy geezer, dodgy estuary accent, dodgy lifestyle, just enough piercings and tattoos to make him interesting, fabulous sense of humour and we flirted shamelessly and outrageously all evening and a wonderful time was had by all. At the end of the evening I realised that I don’t need or want anyone in my life and I was able to walk away knowing that I had had fun, that if I bumped into him again we would have another fun evening and that I wanted no more than that. I am supremely happy being alone. I have never been less lonely in my life and never more sure that I want to be alone. It was a huge, self-affirming moment. 

Don’t worry nearly there now; I did warn you it would be a long one. There is four months worth of stuff to fit in here. 

I just want to spend a bit of time now looking at the things I will really miss about Cyprus. We all take a lot of time moaning about places but I want to focus on the things that have made my life so pleasant for the last couple of years. Things such as going to look for your coat in December and realising you can’t remember where you put it 8 months before; walking out from an air-conditioned shop and the hot air hitting you like the breath of a dragon and enveloping you in a blanket of heat; lying in my bed on days when I couldn’t get up and looking at the Mediterranean, or indeed it just being the first thing I see every morning; standing on my balcony and looking at the mountains stretching all the way up the pan handle and most of all, no matter what the temperature, no matter what the season, the bright, expansive, vastness of the sky - the ever pervading, energising, lightness of the place. Not to mention my flat, which I love and which is perfect. 

And then there are the people! I will not be able to list everyone who has made my life so wonderful, but I will do my best. First of all, the Cypriot people in general who have all been kind, generous and helpful at all times. They are a bit confused by a woman of my age not only being single and childless but also not wanting to change the situation, but they have been polite to me about it anyway! Then there are the Buddhists, who have all ended up here from all over the world and have brought their wisdom, humanity, compassion and in some cases humour to my life. The coffee morning ladies who with their fundraising have given me a focus, not to mention all the fun trips, and a big lesson in not judging. There are all the lovely people I have met at the Pin on a Sunday night, who have put up with our uncanny knack of winning the bingo (I have only just owned up to the fact that I chant to have enough money to get by, and often the bingo wins come along at the most propitious moments!). Larry and Margaret who have let me have a share in their dog. I am dreading saying goodbye to Scruffy and I am trying to fit as many walks in as I can at the moment. Margaret has also fixed my bras for me on the occasions when the wires just can’t take the strain anymore! My pub quiz team of Lynn & Jonathan and Pat & Sandra, who have been fabulous to me. Lynn has been cooking me the most delicious meals and the beef stifado of last week was just amazing. The four of them have been great fun and put up with me nicking the cryptic questions first because they are the ones I love most, not only that but they have helped me when I have needed anything, or been stuck because I can’t drive, or just because... There are all the people I mentioned above who I have been socialising with and who are just fab on a stick.  Gill, who has driven me to collect water from the water machine on so many occasions, and who has made the afternoons at Helping Hands a pleasure. All the varying Sues, for all their varying attributes. Lisa and Neil for being brilliant. Mick & June for being lovely.  Cheryl, Ruth and Ken for all the Deeksha and especially Cheryl for being brave enough to deal with my eyebrows! And lastly Jenny and Chris who have managed the dichotomy of wisdom and madness very astutely. They have both given me some memories that I will cherish for the rest of my days, and which I will still be giggling about when I am 90, if I’m not dead after setting fire to myself whilst collecting a book from underneath a bus by then. Bloody hell I feel like I am collecting an Oscar! 

So, enough already, I hear you cry. Bugger off to England and shut up! Ok, I’m on my way. Thank you Cyprus. Thank you for teaching me that it’s ok to be who I am and to finally rid myself of my puritanical soul. As Richard Bach said: ‘Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes, a farewell is necessary before you can meet again, and meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those that are friends.’ And as I am typing this last paragraph ‘Black Night’ by Deep Purple has just come on and these lines seem to sum up my time here: ‘Maybe I’ll find on my way down the line that I’m free, free to be me.’ Ta’ra Cyprus Sausages, I love you – UK Sausages I love you too and see you soon.

Saturday, 26 February 2011


Here we are in the middle of an amazing time in the world. Scary, yes; all change is frightening, but amazing nonetheless. People’s consciousnesses are coming together and rejecting the yoke they have been under for decades. Some of the stories of the ordinary people which are coming out of Libya, and indeed all of these countries, are truly inspiring. All this has been predicted for many years. The Chief of the Hopi Indians went to the UN in 1946 to warn that this time would happen. That the period before 2012 would be full of uprisings, financial collapse and natural disasters and that mankind would benefit if we could prepare for this time, but unsurprisingly the rational men in the UN laughed this brave man out of the building. 

This week has also been a time of personal awakening for me, but more of that later. First of all we need to discuss the buses. I forgot to mention them in my last blog and they deserve a good old mention. We have real buses! Buses with a screen giving the destination instead of a piece of A4 card stuck to the window. Buses with bells you can ring when you are ready to get off. The first time one sounded while I was on there I nearly jumped through the roof. It sounds a bit like the Family Fortunes buzzer. Most importantly for me, however, is the fact that they have suspension. I no longer have to go over the speed bumps and potholes with my hands firmly clasped over my breasts to hold them in place! We also have a proper timetable. I know, isn’t it brilliant! For all you people that drive I know that it is beyond your comprehension how exciting this is, but just take it from me. 

A couple of weeks ago I went to Essentepe, near Kyrenia, for the weekend with Sue. Our friends Jenny and Temel had married in Istanbul in January and they were holding a reception to celebrate with their friends in Cyprus. It had been very interesting the weekend before as I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to afford to go, and I really wanted to be there to support Jenny (we hadn’t met Temel at that point). So I sent out my thoughts and chanted to be able to go and lo and behold the Universe provided again. They play an occasional game of bingo between quiz rounds at the Corner Pin on a Sunday. Sandra, Lynn, Sue and I always split any winnings we may have between us. These only normally amount to a few Euros each, but on this occasion Sandra won the Snowball and we left with €100 each. Just the right amount needed to get me through! Jenny and Temel kindly put us up and we had a lovely time. It was fabulous to meet Temel. Even with the language barrier (I speak only 3 words of Turkish and Temel speaks limited English) it was apparent to see that he loved Jenny, not that she deserves any less. He was also a wonderful host to the two mad English women who turned up in his house. I wish them many years of blessings. We also got to meet Jane, Jenny’s daughter, who had come over from England to support her mum. She was fabulous company and we had some very funny and some very interesting conversations. Not to mention the fact that she was a fellow rock chick and she went into my heart to stay forever when she requested Pink Floyd at the reception. Jenny has a dog called Scamp and I had a good cuddle with him, but she has also just got a kitten called Bozer and I had forgotten just how comforting it is to lie with a cat prone on your chest whilst it purrs at full volume and strokes your face with his claws fully retracted. I do miss Parkin. However, it is Green Monday next week and I will be amazed if many cats in this area make it through the next weekend. Let alone the fact that I am in a second floor flat with no way up or down for the cat to be free to come and go as it chooses. So have a cat I will not, despite the fact that I miss the freedom of their company terribly. They do not adore, they take affection while they want it and when they have had enough they get up and go, no offence, no questions asked. Perfect! 

So, here we arrive at my journey of awakening and it is a thing that is very difficult to write about. I am aware that people will mock, that they will dismiss it as Catherine being eccentric again. Quite frankly, as I am sure Oscar Wilde once said (or maybe not), I do not give a flying poo! Until we experience anything for ourselves it remains only a concept, an idea. It is a rare person who can take something on trust and go with it and I was with five of the most amazing people this week who did just that. My experience with Deeksha began back in Devon about 4 months before I moved out to Cyprus. I received Deeksha at Quest in Newton Abbot and it was so beautiful. I walked round the corner and a friend who had been having some healing there looked up and said ‘What the fuck just happened to you, you are glowing from head to toe!’ Luckily I found a regular group of Deeksha givers in Totnes (I know, no surprise there!) and the peace that it brought to me was just so profound. The before Catherine is of a very different mindset to the after Catherine. The before Catherine was a profound depressive who did not want to live, who was on so many pills for so many different things, half of which were to combat the side effects of the other half. The after Catherine relies on nothing now. My illnesses are not gone, but my ability to deal with them has changed entirely. Not cured, but healed. I went to a seminar in London just before I moved out here and I left with the determination that I would bring it to Cyprus as I had found out that there were currently no Deeksha givers here. However, there didn’t seem any immediate way of doing this, so it sat on the backburner until I lent the book ‘Awakening into Oneness’ to Sue. She read it and immediately said to me – we have got to go to India and do this. Great idea, but how? So it sat there again for a couple of months until I was giving Cheryl a reiki treatment. Whilst I was giving the treatment a voice was insistent that I lent her this book too. Luckily, she is a very wise and open lady. That, and people are very used to me saying: there’s this book you should read, and just passing them something off my shelves, anything from J K Rowling, to Drunvalo Melchezidek, taking in Milan Kundera on the way. So she obligingly took the book and went home. A couple of days later I get a phone call from her saying: we have got to go to India; I’ve got Ken looking for flights! I said I would pop round for a chat and by this time Ruth had also been passed the book by Cheryl and wanted to be involved. We had found out that they were doing courses in the UK to initiate people to become Deeksha givers, but it would cost a fortune for us all to fly there and find somewhere to stay. I offered to email Jacqui in Totnes (whom I knew slightly from the Deeksha evenings and who, I was aware, had been one of the first Deeksha givers in the UK) just for advice. She emailed back very quickly to say she would love to come out, run a course and initiate us – may 1000 blessings fall on her head! So here we were about 5 weeks later (if you ever want anything done get two Aries women enthusiastic about it, even the universe doesn't dare stand in their way!) all sitting in a room together about to undertake a journey that may or may not go anywhere. I was especially proud of Ken, who is a very rational man. He is not into ‘New Age weirdness’ in any way whatsoever and he took a huge step of faith to be there. 

I will not begin to bore you with all that happened in that darkened room, whilst we searched the dark places of our souls and began to heal some of the bitterness, resentment and anger that most of us don’t even know we are carrying like heavy weights around our necks. All I can say is that on Wednesday afternoon when I received the Deeksha that would enable me to give Deeksha to others I have never felt so whole in my entire life. I felt like I had every single person on this earth in my heart and that I loved every one of them equally. If you think I don’t know how airy fairy that sounds you are much mistaken, all I can say is until you experience it for yourself don’t even begin to judge. It was wonderful to know that one of the driving reasons for us all being in that room was because we wanted peace and reconciliation in Cyprus and that for the first time since I moved here I knew that it was possible. Maybe not within the next fortnight admittedly! But it will happen. So I want now to say thank you, not only to Jacqui, without whom none of it would have happened, but to Ken, Cheryl, Ruth and Sue for having the courage and the love to do something for the world in which we live, from individual to individual, which is the only way that peace can happen. Hopefully Jacqui will be back again to Cyprus and we can run more courses so that more people can take part, but in the meantime you can come and receive Deeksha and find out more about it at The Home of Holistics opposite the Thalassa Museum in Agia Napa on a Wednesday afternoon at 4pm. See here for location:  There is no charge, if you feel like making a small donation towards costs then that would be wonderful, but there is no fee for receiving Deeksha. 

Another interesting thing that occurred was that during the process we needed to connect with our own personal divinity and the form mine took was a Golden Buddha, with a Cockney accent, who told me to call him Sid (short for Siddhartha!) Now what was interesting was that although I am a Buddhist, I am a Nichiren Buddhist and we do not use any icons of Buddha as the original teaching from the Buddha was not to make a God of him, but to realise that all of us had Buddhahood within us. So consequently I have no images of the Buddha in the flat. Also Buddhas come in many shapes and sizes depending on the part of the world you are in. So imagine my surprise when Lynn and Jonathan arrived at my flat yesterday, not only bringing fabulous homemade soup – thank you Lynn – but with a painting that Jonathan had decided to do that week of a Golden Buddha in exactly the form that Sid had taken with me. I was a bit bemused and didn’t want to freak Jonathan out, as he is a very down to earth man, and I probably didn’t express my thanks properly at the time, so here they are now. 

Anyway next time I am sure my blog will be much less spiritual, but who knows! My friends Stuart and Becky are coming out to stay with me for a long weekend in March, which I am looking forward to immensely. But in the meantime I am going to leave you with three quotes. They have all meant a great deal to me and my attitude to life in the last few days. The first is from Chuck Palahniuk (forgive me if that is spelt entirely wrong) who wrote Fight Club: ‘That’s the best revenge of all: happiness. Nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone have a good fucking life.’ How true is that? No more need for weapons or resentment just be happy and piss people off! The second is from Albert Einstein and is just so apt to the way we all compare and judge everybody in the world: ‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.’ The final one is from the 15th Century Indian Mystic Poet, Kabir and encapsulates Oneness for me and what I believe that Buddhism, Deeksha and now Physics is telling us. Everything on this earth is made of the same molecules, from the chair you are sitting on to the screen you are reading from, to the eyes you are using to read it, so if they are all the same then surely all humankind must be: ‘All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges with the drop.’ We are all one and I love you all.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


Today I feel a bit like Marcel Proust (I am sure you all have days like that). Don’t worry the only resemblance is that I am writing this in bed, you aren’t going to have to read a 200 page sentence, or anything remotely resembling literature. I wish! Still maybe the whole writing in bed thing will inspire me and I will suddenly turn into a literary genius. As I type this I can see the birds swooping in the pellucid sky towards Homer’s wine dark sea – no it’s no good maybe I need the overcoat and the hat too (I am wearing the fingerless gloves already)! 

I have been in bed since Friday evening and I don’t think I am coming out again. It is nice and warm and quiet in here. I am having one of my more exhausted periods but I am giving someone a reiki treatment tomorrow so I know I will have to get up at some point. If only to do the washing up before she arrives! Still it is a friend that I am always pleased to see, so I won’t mind in the least really. 

I know I was here last winter but I forgot how cold it is here in January. Ok, so I know that compared to the UK it is not that cold but there is no carpeting and central heating. Also when you have been used to temperatures of 40° it is quite shocking when the cold comes. In direct sunlight it is beautiful and it is much warmer outside than in. Sitting at the coffee morning on Thursday morning we had the sun shining on us and it was so warm that some of the ladies only had t-shirts on. Even I removed my scarf and gloves to a general round of applause, although the jumper and the cardigan remained firmly in place! But as soon as you move away from the sun, or it goes in, it is freezing. Still it makes me even more grateful to be here as I know that if I was in the UK I would have gone indoors in September and not ventured out until April. Here either the sun is shining or we are having amazing rain storms – but it is always proper weather, not just continuous grey drizzle! Indeed the rain was so heavy last Monday that being in my flat was like being on a ship in the middle of a typhoon. The area around my block had flooded and so I was surrounded by a moat, but more importantly the water was just crashing against the windows and cascading in torrents down the glass. It didn’t last for long, but was quite exciting while it did. I am so fortunate having a window at the side as well as at the front. It makes the flat so full of light all the time and I get a 180° view – as well as one from my bed when I need to retreat to it. 

My friend Jenny, who also dislikes the cold, bought me the most amazing Christmas present. They are fabulous fluffy boots for wearing around the house. I think come March you may have to surgically remove them from my feet. They are so snug and comfortable. They also have a nice thick sole to protect you from the cold marble floor. Fabulous stuff! Pat and Sandra were their usual brilliant selves as well. They gave me an electric blanket. They had two, one each, but Pat doesn’t feel the cold – hardy ex-miner that he is – and he said as he doesn’t use it that I could have it. Well, what can I say except: such toasty loveliness. With the combination of the boots, the blanket, my trusty hot cherry stone pillow and the fabulous Fagin gloves that my mother knitted for me I should make it through the winter. I look so sexy in this rig out that I can’t possibly understand why I live alone!

Something I noticed in the peace and quiet of the evening yesterday was that the frogs are back. I mean, like oh my actual God, or whatever the current phrase may be. (No, it’s no use, I struggled being ‘down wiv da kidz’ when I was one so...) For Goodness sakes, they haven’t even had time for a jolly good sleep. I don’t mind them at all, in fact I have missed them, but you’d think it wasn’t even worth hibernating. Will someone please have a word with the head frog – does anyone have Paul McCartney’s phone number, I believe he has some influence. 

So to go back to Christmas, I hope you all had a wonderful time. Kyrenia was very nice and it didn’t seem like Christmas at all, which was a bonus. As someone said to me: ‘I know you don’t like Christmas but going away to a Muslim Country does seem a bit excessive.’ It is still an ordinary day there so everything is open and everyone is off to school and work as normal. We went down to the harbour in the day on Christmas and I had an halloumi and salad filled pitta bread next to the harbour walls in the sunshine with friends. Now that is what I call Christmas! I also discovered a wonderful thing in the North – Dark Efes. Although I am not a big drinker when I do drink I tend to drink beer – for a start it is cheap! I always drank proper beer in the UK – you know warm and tasteless ales – yum! ‘Pint of Otter please my Pretty Maid’ you know the form. However, out here there is only lager. You can pay a fortune for imported bitters but what is the point. It is also far too hot in the summer to be drinking warm beer and lager is far more refreshing (even if it is a woman’s drink – I have the real ale drinker’s beard and everything!) So it was with huge excitement that I discovered Dark Efes. Efes is Turkish lager but Dark Efes is what would happen if a pint of Bass and a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale were to breed. I now have to find a way to get it over the Green Line. I can walk to the Buffer Zone in about 5 minutes, but it isn’t a proper crossing. Do you think I can arrange to meet someone there and do an Alec Guinness/Smiley-type transaction in a cold-war styley? Still I am sure that it will turn up in my life again soon and I think I will manage to cope without it until then. 

New Years Day was fabulous. I was due to go out New Year’s Eve, but I wasn’t in the mood and I was too tired (plus ca change), so I went to bed early and settled down with a good book. However, on New Year’s Day we had all been invited to Panos and Giovanna’s flat in Oroklini for New Year’s Gongyo. Their flat is even more like a ship than mine is and on a more permanent basis, not just mid-storm. They have picture windows on three sides and are high enough up that you do not see the Dekhalia Road or the immediate surroundings at all. At the front you look out to the Oroklini Mountains; to the side the bay curves around so that you look across to Dekhalia, but when you sit down you can’t see the land beneath, so you look out directly into the sea. The piece de resistance however is the balcony at the back. It is above the beach and as you sit there the waves crash beneath you. I was unable to join in much of the conversation (I know, not like me!) as I was drawn in, as always, by the sound and movement of the sea. It is a good job I don’t live there because I would never get anything done, I would sit and listen to the serene and sometimes savage susurration of the waves forever. As we all chanted together for 2011 to be whatever it needed to be for each of us, surrounded by such beauty, I was truly moved. In the evening I had been invited to Lynn and Jonathan’s for a little get together of 10 of us and so started the New Year with good and kind friends, much more my thing than a big party the night before. Panos and Giovanna and Lynn and Jonathan had provided wonderful food too, so I didn’t need to eat again for about 3 days. Panos is Cypriot, Giovanna is Italian and Lynn and Jonathan are English, so I had traditional food from all three countries that day. 

Something I have been chanting on is to find a focus for myself this year. I have been trying to think what I am qualified and, more importantly, have the energy to do and the only thing that came into my head was Mata Amritanandamayi (also known as Amma, Indian for Mother), the Hugging Saint. Now I know that I am nowhere near the saint bit, but I wondered whether maybe she took on apprentices to hug the people she can’t get round to. I can’t think of anything I am more qualified to do than just hug people all day. It is after all my favourite thing and proper hugs are always hard to come by as people assume there must be something sexual implied by it. I miss my brother anyway, but something he was always very good about was turning up to give me a proper hug if I rang him. He has declined to just get on a plane and give me a hug, how selfish is that. Brighton isn’t that far from Gatwick! A proper hug requires no conversation, no preamble, just complete and utter unconditional acceptance of the other person in that moment. Evelyn once sent me a very funny clip of Matt Harvey’s sketch on the ‘Totnes Hug’ and he gets it spot on. I even have a card in my purse that states that the holder is entitled to unlimited hugs from whomsoever they present it to. Sadly I think everyone would run a mile if I handed it over. People aren’t good at random affection without an ulterior motive as a rule. I do tend to hug and kiss everyone anyway when I say hello and goodbye, but that isn’t the same as a good long platonic hug. So if anyone knows Amma please could you put in a word. I have references and everything!

Just briefly before I conclude my Meanderings for now I wanted to give Cyprus some well-deserved praise. I had to fill in a form to send back to the UK which needed to be witnessed by an official of some sort.  I went to my local bank on Thursday and asked if they would be able to do this. Now in the UK they would charge an exorbitant fee just for signing it.  Here the Bank Manager beamed and invited me to sit down while he patiently read it through (not even in his first language) and then signed for no fee at all and asked if there was anything else he could do! Well done Cyprus! Impressive stuff, for something that should just be common courtesy to a customer and not impressive at all, which just goes to show how far the so-called civilized world has fallen. 

So, here we come to the end again. I have been sorely tempted to find a quote from Wayne Hussey of The Mission as I have rediscovered their 1992 album ‘Masque’ in the last week or so and I had forgotten just how much I loved it. However, it being an album of the Goth Genre, there probably isn’t anything particularly uplifting in the lyrics with which to begin 2011, although angst is always artistically attractive (or maybe that’s just my warped mind!) So I am going to use a quote that I have written in the front of my diary this year. I read it in a book by Daisaku Ikeda, but the quote itself is from Leo Tolstoy: ‘Supreme happiness is to find that you are a better person at the end of the year than at the beginning.’  As always I send you all vast love and the wish that 2011 brings you everything you want and more.

Thursday, 23 December 2010


I know it has been a while since I have written a blog and thank you to those of you who have contacted me to see whether I had dropped dead! Now that I have written covering a whole year in Cyprus I will not be blogging so regularly. The seasons and the beauty of the country as it changes throughout the year will be the same and I have no wish to repeat myself, so the Meanderings will now be a more sporadic offering. 

It has been a very mixed period here in Cyprus climatically. Anyone who thinks there is no climate change is obviously in a great deal of self denial. November here on the edge of the Middle East was the warmest in 110 years. Some days it was still reaching the late 20s, which of course I was extremely happy about. However, this does give you an immense shock when the sun goes in as within minutes you are incredibly cold. Therefore you knew if you were out in the late afternoon that you had to be prepared for both temperatures. This beautiful temperate November did mean that we had none of the rain that the country normally relies on at this time of year, which is concerning. December did bring a fantastic storm, which was one of the best I have ever seen, but the rain was so torrential that it did not have the chance to soak into the earth, so was not much use for replenishing the aquifers. 

As I said the storm was utterly amazing. If you have a fear of thunderstorms this is not a good place to live. It had been raging on and off all evening and was incredibly close overhead so when I went to bed I arranged the pillows in the most advantageous spot and curled up under my duvet to watch it. The power went off in Kapparis and so there was no other source of light than the lightning which was constant. We were inside the sheet lightning, which was enveloping the village and at the same time we could see the fork lightning flashing around us. As you can imagine the cracks coming from the thunder were deafening as they were directly overhead. At one point I could resist it no longer and had to go and stand on my balcony. It was one of the eeriest experiences I have ever had. A black sack had been blown onto the roof of my building and was caught on the railings above my balcony. When the lightning flashed I saw this ragged dark shape swooping and flying above my head only for the world to go black a split second later. Obviously with the next flash (also within a split second) the black mass was in another position and was truly spooky, even though I knew exactly what it was. It is easy to see how legends and stories come about. My imagination transformed that black tattered shape into a hundred different ‘monsters’ all of which were waiting to pounce. Eventually I decided I was soggy enough and was in danger of being bodily lifted off the balcony (yes the wind was that strong!) so I went back to bed to watch it. 

The next day there were a number of storm stories. A friend who had been performing at the Akrotiri Air Force Base (which is the other side of the country) had to drive home in the midst of the storm, trying to avoid all the flooded roads and the rocks that were washing down the sides of the incredibly dry hills. My favourite story came from Chris and I wish he was here to tell it in his own words. On the Friday evening he was watching TV on his laptop, happily minding his own business, when a bolt of lightning came through his ceiling and stopped about five inches above the laptop. This was followed by a crack that made it sound as though the building had just split in two. For a few minutes he just sat there open-mouthed, then he got his act together and googled being struck by lightning inside your own house and indeed it is not that rare. I am afraid I was a complete bitch when he told me and laughed for ages. I was trying hard not to and I was relieved he was not hurt, but it is an image that will stay in my mind for a long time. As he said in conversation a few days later: ‘a few more inches and it would have got my bollocks!’ I am sure that all men reading this can share the relief that he obviously felt. Indeed he had a rough 24 hours involving rescuing a dog from an upside down kennel; a satellite dish hanging by a thread from the roof of his workplace; being asked by a neighbour to do a Rod Hull and go and check the roof in the middle of a storm (which he sensibly didn’t do) and to top it all the pickup truck he borrowed turned out to be full of ammo. I will leave the rest to your imagination and if you ever meet him I am sure he will fill you in on the details. 

A few weeks ago I had one of the most amusing evenings out I have ever had. I am loathe to write about it because I am not sure how I will convey it on paper. In fact if a television crew had been there, recorded it live and put it out as a sitcom everyone would say that the characters were not believable. It is one of the amazing things about Cyprus that if you have the front you can get away with anything. The local Argos Dog Sanctuary was holding a barn dance in aid of the sanctuary (obviously!) and although that is not normally my type of thing at all I am so glad I went. I came out with my cheeks aching from laughing all night. Gill, who I volunteer with at Helping Hands, wanted to go as she loves dancing of any kind, so I said I would go with her but that I would ask Sue if she wanted to come too as they both love dancing whereas I am more likely to sit at the side and just take it all in. So we trolled off to Vrysoulles to George’s (which in an aside is owned by a Cypriot who looks like a short Murray Head). The venue was lovely, and the food was good, with George aka Murray being a very genial host - it was the dance callers who were to provide the hilarity. ‘If you can count to 8 you can barn dance’ the lady lisped into her microphone. Sadly what she neglected to mention was that she could not do this herself. She was perched behind her Bontempi with her husband playing the accordion at her side. He had already given us a shock as when we sat down with our drinks we were moaning about the version of ‘Green, Green Grass of Home’ that was playing (although Tom Jones rarely features on my musical radar I do acknowledge that he has a great voice) when we turned round and realised it was him singing along with his accordion. As our eyes met I think we already knew what was in store. Bless them they were very sweet, but she kept forgetting where she was and Gill (who picks up dance steps as quick as breathing) was telling her what came next. Not only that but some of the people who were dancing gave me hope. I tend to avoid anything that involves co-ordination as being a dyspraxic fool I tend to cause chaos, yet I came out of there realising that I am not as uncoordinated as I thought I was. People were falling over each other and could not work out where to go next. I would say that they weren’t listening, but I am not sure that would have made a great deal of difference. From my seat at the side of the dance floor I could hear Sue’s ringing tones calling out ‘silly old trout’ every time the caller made another error. There were some Cypriot girls who had gamely come out to try this barn-dancing malarkey and I thought that I had never seen anyone so clumsy, which just proves what a fool I am, because later on when George got the bouzouki out they did some flawless Greek dancing, so I think the fault must have been in the explanation. All in all you had to be there to appreciate the hilarity of it, but we continued laughing all the way home in the car and, being a big advocate of the fact that laughter is the best thing in the world and is only second to sunlight for healing everything, it was worth every single penny. Not only that but it raised a lot of money for the sanctuary which after all was the point of the exercise. As I said earlier if you have the front you can get away with anything in Cyprus. The amount of cabaret acts I have seen in the bars here that I have thought just had an amazing cheek is unbelieveable, although there are also a lot of acts I have seen that I have enjoyed thoroughly. It has taught me a valuable lesson, I realise now that I can have a good evening without it being a cultural tour de force. If I go out with the attitude that I am going to have a good time I always do. When I go out and think that what I am going to see or do is beneath me, then I come back miserable. It is not hard to make a decision between the two when you realise the difference it makes to your quality of life. I try not to sneer anymore – although it is still very much a work in progress. 

So, beautiful people, I am off to pack now as I am going to the Dark Side for Christmas. We are off to stay at the Old Ship in Kyrenia for a few days. I am a bit trepidatious (not sure whether this is actually a word, but it says what I mean so I am going to use it, so there!) as it has been a long time since I have gone near Christmas, but I am just looking at it as being an extended party of good friends, with lovely food thrown in, and Christmas being an irrelevant backdrop. There seems to be half of Paralimni going. In fact everybody I speak to keeps saying ‘see you Friday’, so it will probably be just like spending Christmas here but with a different view. Also, it has to be said, a hell of a lot cheaper. For €110 we have got three nights half board in a beautiful hotel, you couldn’t even pay for Christmas dinner in the UK for that. Anyway, I am looking forward to it immensely. 

I hope that all of you have had a season of fun and frolics and that it continues over the Christmas Period. I realise that it has been so long since I was on here that I forgot to wish everyone a Happy Diwali, Hanukah and Solstice – but my thoughts were with you all for all of them. I have tried to find a Christmas quote that wasn’t trite, sentimental, or vomit-making and failed miserably so instead I am going to share a Viz Top Tip with you: ‘Chris Rea. If you’re driving home for Christmas again this year, you’d better get a fucking move on.’!

Friday, 12 November 2010


So, as of yesterday I marked the first anniversary of my life in my own corner of paradise – and what a year it has been. However, I will come back to that later. 

Physically I am much more on form at the moment. In fact I have had a very active week. On the other hand I am still a bit behind mentally. I have had some seriously dippy moments. My new contract was sent back to me because I had not initialled the bottom pages as well as signing the last page. I sent it back with a note apologising for being so dim, only to realise after I had sent it off that I still had not signed the bloody pages. I rang Bingo Sue the other day to ask her if she had a black wig that a friend could borrow for a fancy dress party and got myself so confused by Sues that when she said Steve (her partner) had one, I asked her Steve who?, as I somehow thought I was talking to Buddhist Sue, whose first husband was called Steve and I couldn’t work out how she would know that he had a black wig after all these years. Poor Sue must have thought I had really lost it. Then my piece de resistance was when I went to lock my front door. There are two identical switches next to the front door, one is the doorbell and one is the hall light. Now it is not particularly dippy that I pressed the doorbell instead of the light, what is supremely mental is that I looked round to see who was there! I know! I should be locked up.

As I say it has been a very active week this week. On Sunday I took part in the annual sponsored walk that is in aid of helping Cancer patients in Cyprus. We walked from Pernera to Kapparis. This was organised by another Sue (Liverpool Sue) and her husband Stan and was brilliant. Mary and Owen who run the O Zone where the walk ended, and indeed so many people, put in an awful lot of hard work. We had a great day with The Insanity playing and cheap beer and food that had all been donated. They managed to raise €1600 on the day before any sponsor money has been collected in. This does raise a huge dilemma for me. As I am sure you are all aware my politics lie slightly to the left of Karl Marx when he is at his most bolshie and in theory I completely disagree with the concept of charities as I think that the Government (of whatever country) should be putting money into helping people not into weapons or other such destructive elements. It should be a person’s right to have help if they have Cancer, or any other illness. However, this is certainly not the case in Cyprus and so if we all said that then in the meantime until the Government gets its act together (by which time I shall certainly have been dead and buried for a long while) what do we do? Do we just say: sorry, you have to be the ones who suffer and just stand back and watch? Personally I can’t do that and neither can all the wonderful people around here. So, sadly the Government gets away without having to do anything again. 

For example, a couple of months ago it was brought to the attention of the ladies at the coffee morning that for all the patients in the Paralimni area there was one oxygen machine to go round. That is just astounding. My dad was on an oxygen machine for the last few years of his life and it made a huge difference to his quality of life and probably prolonged it too, if only by a few months. So, anyhoo, without any fuss they organised themselves and raised enough to buy two more (which are by no means cheap), ship them out and do it with the best possible exchange rate so that they could give the hospital the best deal. Nobody took any wages for this, everybody mucked in and gave what they could and it was all done within a matter of weeks and now there are two more people whose lives are that much easier because of them. Oxfam and the RSPCA could take a note or two out of their books. It was the same on Sunday; no one made any profit out of the day. So well done everyone. 

I have also been doing an exercise class called Zumba which is a mixture of dance and aerobics. This is good fun, but it does knacker me. Those who know me personally will know that my co-ordination is not always very good, so it can be quite amusing, but I am getting there. I have been walking Scruffy as normal and I also met up with Jenny last Saturday and we did a lovely walk with her dogs. It was lovely to see Jenny actually, as she had been working herself into the ground over the season, so I had missed her over the summer. 

We had a bit of excitement here in Kapparis on Monday night. I had just crawled into bed at about 9.00, as it is the warmest and most comfortable place to read, when there was a huge bang, which shook my flat. I am terrible – I was so snug in the duvet that I didn’t know whether I could be bothered to get up and look. I thought, it being that time of year, that it might just be a HUGE firework, either that or we were being invaded. Eventually I dragged myself out to the balcony and as I couldn’t see any plumes of smoke, or any aircraft carriers in the bay I decided I wasn’t going to worry about it for one second longer. The next morning it was in the Famagusta Gazette that someone had planted an ‘explosive device’ outside the offices of Famagusta Developers, which is just at the bottom of my road to the left. They had obviously pissed someone off. I went along to have a nose but I couldn’t see anything much and according to the Gazette they had only done minor damage to the entrance lobby. Goodness knows what was in it to make such a loud explosion and do barely any damage. Still, no-one was hurt so that is all that matters. 

So, to go back to my theme of having been here a year, I still can’t quite believe it. I am so different from the person I was when I got off that plane last year. For a start my head is no longer so far up my arse that I can lick my tonsils. I was an inveterate snob. If you hadn’t read the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in the original Persian, or were not able to quote Shakespeare verbatim (incidentally neither of which I can do) then I looked down my nose and merely humoured you. Ok, so a bit of hyperbole there and not a very pleasant thing to admit about myself, but at its root it is true. Not only that but I was a working class snob who espoused middle class socialism. My politics have not changed in their essence and I still think The Daily Mail should be closed down as a den of iniquity, evil and propaganda, but I have changed in my attitude towards people who do not share my views. Even if they are obviously wrong! Only joking! What I have noticed is that so many of the people who spout such liberalism and tolerance so rarely practise it in real life. If they were put in a situation where someone really needs help in the flesh, right now, who may be smelly and dirty and completely down on their luck, they would cross the street and call someone else to deal with it. Of course this is also a generalization and is certainly not true of everyone and I do know some people personally of whom this is definitely not true, but they are an exception to the Middle Class rule. The people I am talking about are the ones who will tell everyone they read the Guardian or the Independent and let everyone know just how tolerant they are and yet do sod all to help a real person. On the contrary what I have learnt here is that, whilst I still disagree with so much of what is said out loud – i.e.: Enoch Powell was right; and I have to take myself out of the conversation very quickly before I cause a big argument; when it comes down to brass tacks there is no one that the same people would not actually help if they were in front of them and they needed something. 

The past year has also been the healthiest that I can remember in my whole life. Yes there have been ups and downs, but that is to be expected. The fact is, however, that I have not had infection after infection, I have not spent half of it in bed and I have not spent the majority of it crying. The sunshine is the most healing substance in the world. As I often say healing and curing are not the same thing. I am not cured. I still have in essence the same illnesses, but I am healing nicely thank you. That and living so that I can see the sea every single day without having to go anywhere is just amazing. 

I have had to accept that money will be hard to come by here for me, but my life in general is pleasant enough that going without for a few days at the end of every month is hardly a hardship. I have found such lovely and genuine people here, who have helped me to see that life is not as black and white as I like to think it is. I have also found people such as Buddhist Sue, Chris and Jenny with whom I can have more serious conversations as well as having great fun. Then there are people like Lynn (who brought me some of her beautiful homemade soup this week – delicious!) and Jonathan who look after me; of course Sandra and Pat who to some degree have adopted me and are kindness personified; Larry and Margaret who loan me their dog whenever I want to walk her; and all the people in the Pin and at the coffee morning and in the area generally who make my life nicer just by being in it. 

One more thing that Cyprus has taught me in the past year is how to appreciate what I have left behind in the UK. Especially Totnes, I possibly would never have known how much Totnes meant to me without leaving it behind. The ease of getting books, good books, at any time for a reasonable price - that is something that I did not appreciate fully. The welfare state and the NHS; the immense choice that is available to even the poorest in the UK and the knowledge that treating animals well is the norm and not something you have to fight for – these are all things I took for granted. I would say it made me appreciate my family more too, but that would be a lie, as I could not appreciate them (and my beautiful Parkin) any more than I already do.  (By the way Happy Birthday to my Mum for Monday - have a lovely day!)

So, where will the next 12 months take me? I truly have no idea. Will I still be writing this from Kapparis a year hence? We will have to wait and see and as Goethe says: ‘This is the highest wisdom that I own; freedom and life are earned by those alone who conquer them each day anew.’ All I can do is keep conquering and see where I end up.

Saturday, 30 October 2010


Hello Chaps and Chapesses. Firstly I apologise for not being in contact for the last month but I haven’t been able to string a coherent sentence together and that is all very well when you are talking, even if it is a bit strawberry when you use the wrong fusebox – to quote Monty Python – but when you are writing it is a bit more important that you at least vaguely make sense. Also I am under no illusion that I am a writer of the quality of Marcel Proust. He may have made ennui worth reading about, but I have not yet worked out how. There is only so much you can write when your days consist of waking up, walking as far as the sofa, sitting down again and having a bit of a nap, standing up, walking as far as the kitchen, getting a drink and thinking I need a bit of a sit down now. See you are all asleep already! I have had better days than others, but it has taken all my resources to get out and do a few bits and pieces and then recover from them. However, in the last week I have started walking Scruffy again for the first time since I got back from the UK and I am on the upward stroke again. 

My mother made me laugh the other day. She said ‘it doesn’t normally take this long for you to get better’. Isn’t it funny how quickly we become complacent. I have been so much healthier since I have been in Cyprus that she has forgotten the last winter I spent in the UK when the poor woman had to keep coming to Devon to look after me because I had spent months not moving. I reminded her of this and the fact that even though I was not at my healthiest I was nowhere near as bad as I was when I get like this in the UK as the sunshine gives me the energy to at least go out and get things done on occasion, even if I do have to lie down for 24 hours afterwards. 

All that aside I can definitely confirm to you that the frogs have hibernated. I will repeat that: the frogs have hibernated! I am not lying to you this time. They have not made a peep, or indeed a chirrup or a croak, for at least three weeks now. My next question is where on earth do they go? There were hundreds of them and now they are all gone, gone and never called me mother. The silly thing is that I think I miss them. Oh well I expect I will get over it. 

Cyprus is having a rough time with its own grown produce at the moment. The prices of vegetables have sky-rocketed in the shops, with a cauliflower coming in at over €5 a couple of weeks ago. The summer was so blisteringly hot here this year (in fact the hottest they have had for a while and definitely the most humid) that most of the vegetables in the fields withered and died. Hence they are having to import most of their fruit and vegetables at the moment, which is a bit of a shock for a farming nation. I missed the worst of the summer ( I never thought I would use that phrase) as I was in the UK in August, but everyone is viewing the onset of Autumn with relief and it does have to be said that October is just about a perfect month in Cyprus. The air is clear again – the views of the panhandle have been almost unimpeded in the last few weeks; the temperature is beautiful – being warm without being exhausting in its intensity and we can all get back to working or walking about without having to stop and change our wringing wet clothes every ten minutes. Not that I minded the heat that I was here for, but I wasn’t working and I do have to admit that this is far more comfortable. In fact May and October are probably the most wonderful months to be in Cyprus. 

We also get the odd bit of rain at this time of year as well. There are two sorts. The first is very refreshing. You are out with the sunshine and the humidity beating down on you and then all of a sudden you feel drops cooling your skin. This does not last for very long at all, just some minor aberration. The second, however, is violent in its intensity. Again, it does not necessarily last for long, but it is torrential for the time it does last. A couple of weeks ago I was doing my stint in the charity shop (one of the things for which I dragged myself off my backside) when in an instant the heavens opened. Within five minutes the main road was like a river. The shop was crowded with people in shorts and strappy tops trying to find a bit of shelter. Within another five minutes Gill and I had to stand at the door with brooms sweeping the water out as fast as we could before we were flooded. Yet only an hour after that we were sitting outside on chairs that had already dried having our coffee break in the afternoon sun. Now that’s proper rain, not this drizzle that lasts for months on end, never actually making you wet just constantly damp and miserable! 

I was also very grateful to Zeus for putting on a fabulous entertainment for me as I lay awake in bed one night at 3am. I was able to lie there, being too tired to move, or read and watch the fabulous storm that was raging about five miles out to sea. It was too far away to hear the thunder, but the lightning was beautiful and constant. It lit up the sky for miles around and I could see that the sky above my balcony was completely cloudless and the stars were bright and clear. A very strange anomaly for someone who grew up in a country where storms are only viewed through grey clouds. 

I am very grateful too to a couple of friends, who wish to remain nameless, who have bought me a new pair of glasses. I am then able to pay them back monthly as I could not afford to buy them outright myself. I took my old glasses to an optician to see if there was any chance they could be mended but he just looked at them sadly and shook his head. Chris suggested I wind a coat hanger around my head and suspend each lens off the wire and over each eye, but I didn’t think my practical dexterity was sufficient to pull this off. Jonathan managed to superglue them for a few days, but they soon slid down either side of my face again. Sue tried to use epoxy resin but this too was to no avail, so in the end I had to admit that they had died. Eyesight is another thing we get very complacent about. I thought I could try the glasses you get in the supermarket for €5, as lots of people seem to get by with these. Having worn glasses for the last 13 years I had forgotten just what was wrong with my eyes and when I tried on the various strengths of these glasses I realised that these would not be of any use to me whatsoever. Not only is my left eye considerably weaker than my right, but, as the optician reminded me, I have pronounced stigmatisms in both eyes – I know trust me! I had come to the conclusion that I was just going to have to cope without glasses for a while and although this was not a pleasant fact, it was a fact nonetheless. When you can see well (whether with glasses or without) you forget what it is like to walk around and not see anything. I was ok in the day because my sunglasses are prescription, but at night it is quite nerve-wracking not knowing who or what is coming towards you until you are more or less level with them. I have never worried about walking around at night in the dark, but I was beginning to get nervous because I felt at a disadvantage. The street lighting here is at a minimum and there are very few pavements. Anyway to cut a long story short these lovely people argued with me for about an hour before I would even begin to agree to accept their help. Despite the fact that they kept saying to me ‘we are not having you messing with your eyesight’ and ‘that’s what friends are for’, my pride still takes a fair bit of conquering. In the end they didn’t give me a choice and told me they were arriving to take me to the optician the following day knowing that I would be too polite to leave them waiting in the car without turning up! 

It has to be said that the optician was fabulous. They do not charge you for eye tests here as they know you will be buying glasses from them and so consider it part of the service. If you don’t need glasses then you will go back to them when you do. The glasses were ready within 4 days and were cheaper than any pair I have ever had in the UK, despite me being very fussy about getting frames that went with my hair! I now understand why people come and get their glasses here when they are on holiday. It is much cheaper and a much nicer experience than sitting in one of the generic opticians in the UK. Although, the independent optician I went to in Totnes was brilliant as he wasn’t part of a conglomerate and could therefore actually care about his patients individually. 

This brings me to Good Fortune. It is something that has been much on my mind in the last few weeks. I am so lucky to have people around me such as the lovely people who have helped me out with the glasses. Buddhist Sue has been cooking me a proper meal once a week and everyone here is always kind and helpful to me. I couldn’t be more fortunate. If you look at my life dispassionately, which I do quite a lot, you would be forgiven for thinking it is a crock of shite – not to put too fine a point on it. I am 34 years of age and I know that I am unlikely ever to be able to do a full day’s work again. I subsist on hardly any money. I have so many things wrong with me that they had to build a special set of shelves in the NHS vaults just to hold my notes. Yet, as I say that is all dispassionate and only the surface. I am not pretending that any of it is easy, but at the same time just how fortunate am I that I was born where I was born, into the family I have, who look after me and care about me; to have the friends that I have and the help that I have. I could so easily have been born with all the same things but in a slum in India, or in a village in the middle of Africa, where the people may be just as wonderful but where there are just no resources and where quite frankly I would have been dead a long time ago. We forget to look at all the good fortune we have created in our lives and so often concentrate on the bad. I just want to use this opportunity to say thank you and I love you to all the people that make my life so much easier every single day (despite the fact that I know they are reading this and saying ‘soppy cow’). 

As Daisaku Ikeda says: ‘When we have a genuine sense that, no matter how difficult our present circumstances, we are not alone – that we are vitally connected with others and with the world – we will, without fail, rise up to the challenge of living again.’ So take care my lovelies and Happy Samhain for tomorrow.  I am now off for a lovely sit down!

Saturday, 2 October 2010


Well I hope you all enjoyed Cyprus Independence Day yesterday. It passed in a complete wave of indifference here in Kapparis. Whether there was wild partying elsewhere on the island I do not know. Considering that it was the 50th anniversary of their throwing off the British yoke I am surprised that there was not something going on. Still, what would I know? 

I am afraid I am running late with the blog this week as I have been struggling a little . The exhaustion that has been threatening since just before I left the UK has finally got its vicious little claws around me. I am managing to get out and do some lovely things but that is my lot for the day. It is so hard to explain to anyone how this affects your life as people really do not understand it unless they have had it. They think that you are just a little bit tired and as soon as you have had a rest you are ok. So I am going to try to explain it so that if there are other people in your life with ME or CFS you can appreciate a bit more what it is about and not just dismiss them out of hand. I think, to begin with, the thing that confuses most people is that when I do get out I give 110% of myself. This is something that my ex-husband used to find particularly difficult to understand, understandably enough. He used to ask me why I could go out and be the life and soul of the party, laugh and joke and be my usual loud self only to collapse like a wet rag when I was in the house, which he then had to cope with. It is one of the reasons I am now glad I live alone as I can be completely useless without having to worry that I am making someone else’s life a misery. If I listened to the doctors I would only ever give about 30% and then be able to live my life at a constant level, but in my opinion it would be a constant level of COMPLETE BOREDOM! My personality is not fitted to living life indifferently, when I do something I participate wholeheartedly or not at all. This is my choice and so I cannot have a woe is me moment (and I don’t want one anyway!) because this is my decision. What people find most difficult to understand though is what I call ‘collateral damage’. When I have been out living my life this is what my payment has to be for all the enjoyment. Since I moved to Cyprus this payment has been pretty minor. I have rested in between things and managed to get a load of energy from the sun; but this week the collateral damage is beginning to give me a hint of how it was in the UK, although I must stress at this point that it is as yet (and hopefully will not get to the point of) nowhere near the total collapses I have experienced there. For example on Thursday I went to the coffee morning. Sandra picked me up, so I did not have to walk far. I sat on my backside for a couple of hours, joining in as and when I felt the urge and I would bet money that not one person at the coffee morning would have any inkling that I was anything but healthy. Then Buddhist Sue came and collected me as she was going to do her shopping at the Xenis supermarket and she had kindly said she would take me. This is my favourite (if you can apply such a term to a supermarket, maybe least hideous would be the better soubriquet) as it is small and quite Cypriot but unsurprisingly not on a bus route and an awkward place to walk home from with shopping. We were there less than an hour but by the time I got home I knew that my body was about to stop. As soon as I put the shopping away I had to retreat to the sofa with a book and I was asleep within minutes. I woke up a couple of hours later, and pootled to bed. I was not sleepy but I could not hold my body upright one second longer. What I find very difficult though are the mornings when I am in the throes of what the Victorians would have called an episode. I awaken early enough, but it can literally be a couple of hours before I even have the strength to open my eyes. So I have to lie still hearing the world carrying on around me being unable to move any part of myself let alone my eyelids. Once the eyes are open, it then takes me time to lie there getting up the strength to sit upright. It doesn’t matter how desperate you are to go to the toilet there is nothing that can make your body move at any greater speed. All of this is carried on with a constant commentary in my head of ‘come on Smith, get a grip’; ‘move your bleeding ‘arris Smith’ and ‘right I’ve had enough of this now, get the fuck up!’ So consequently I have not been up in time to write anything before hauling myself out to whatever is arranged for that day and on return again collapsing into bed. I want to be clear that none of this is a complaint, just trying to describe my life in a factual way. I have long ago accepted that this is how it is and I still manage to live a pretty amazing life. However, today I felt I wanted to actually explain the nature of the beast. I have to say I am amazingly grateful to Lynn, who by dint of being in the flow of the universe made me some lovely pasta and rice salads this week and so I haven’t had to worry about trying to find food. Perfect timing. As I say how can I complain when I am this fortunate. 

Still there is one thing I am going to complain about. I put my glasses on yesterday when I got back from my stint at the charity shop and they broke in two! I had been wearing them all afternoon and there was no sign of any breakage. They are the first glasses I have had that have actually suited me and I love them. They are tortoiseshell Karen Millen, although that makes them sound much more expensive than they were. They are shaped beautifully and they are no more! I tried fixing them with sellotape a la Harry Potter but couldn’t get them to hold together. So it looks like I am sans glasses for the foreseeable (or in my case not very seeable) future. There is no such thing as an NHS optician in Cyprus, or indeed anywhere else in the world except the UK. Another thing we forget just how fortunate we are to have. Don’t let them take your NHS away people. Fight to your last breath to keep it, or your last breath might just be sooner than you think and somewhere far more uncomfortable than one of the hospitals people seem to enjoy moaning about. So if I am walking down the street and ignore you, please don’t take it personally. I just won’t have a clue who you are until you are within a gnat’s crotchet of me (as the great Humphrey Lyttleton would say). Still if I win the snowball in the Corner Pin on Sunday it is new glasses all round! 

I did manage to get in a couple of lovely things at the end of last week before the exhaustion became too acute. On Wednesday I went to Sirena Bay with Sue and her sister Babs who was staying with her for a while. Believe it or not it is the first time I have been to the beach this year. I was ridiculously overdressed compared to everyone else there, but I don’t do beachwear and believe me that is something you should all be very grateful for. I did have a paddle and the Med was beautifully warm. However, what made the afternoon so special was that as we were lying there jabbering away a Kingfisher came and sat on a branch to the right of us. (Luckily my sunglasses are prescription as they are only tiny!) For the next twenty minutes or so he proceeded to give us a wonderful display as he dived in and out of the sea catching fish -the beautiful shimmering turquoise of his back glinting in the sun, with the pink of his breast catching the light when he regained his branch. This was particularly special to me as I have been longing to see a Kingfisher for ages. I have traversed the River Dart on the boat from Dartmouth to Totnes on many occasions and they describe part of the river as the Kingfisher Run as they are so abundant there (allegedly!). But never have I seen one, so I felt terribly privileged to have been able to watch this one in action.

We had a trip to some wineries in the Troodos last Thursday with the coffee morning. The Troodos is always beautiful. It is normally quite a bit cooler up in the mountains and so I went dressed accordingly. No, not in thermals, but I did wear long trousers and a proper t-shirt, whereas down here on the coast you can’t wear anything other than strappy tops really. I was glad of it on the coach as the air conditioning is always so chilly, indeed I wore my pashmina on the way home, which was a source of great amusement! It was pleasantly warm in the Troodos though, although I should imagine that it gets very cold there in the winter. What amused me the most about the day, however, was that whenever I have been on a trip with the coffee morning ladies they have all got rather loud on the way back after partaking of a little too much wine with their luncheons. This time we actually went wine-tasting and they were as quiet as mice. What’s that all about then? 

It was the Agia Napa festival last weekend. This was on for three days, but we just used it as an excuse to go into Napa to see Chris on Saturday evening, as he always seems to have to come in this direction. We did wander through the stalls but it was so packed that it was difficult to see anything. The monastery square was incredibly crowded as a young Greek heartthrob was singing that evening who apparently is incredibly famous. Needless to say he did nothing for me. The beauty of youth has never appealed; middle-aged craggy men have always been much more my type! The wonderful thing about these festivals is that they are all free. They are put on by the local municipalities. I am afraid we didn’t last long in the throng and went and found a pub at the side of the square. Chris did convince me to try chips with gravy on the way home. I made all the protests about it being northern that a good southern girl should, but and I will say this very quietly, they were actually very tasty. Much, much nicer than mushy peas! 

So, finally before I go for a lovely sit down here are some words from Thomas Carlyle that I wholeheartedly agree with: ‘I’ve got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.’ If there is no blog next week you know what’s happened!