The Cat and the Bear

The Cat and the Bear
Charlie and his bear pal!

Ex-Pat to Re-Pat

Welcome to my countdown to repatriation!

After living in Athens, Greece for the lion's share of two decades I am on my way back to settle again in the land of my birth, Wales. I have a cat so that makes things a bit more complicated. Those of you in the same boat will know that you need a pet passport to take a pet into the UK, and that procedure takes at least 7 months. So, I decided to get the major removal upheaval over with and left Athens in January to winter on the island of Corfu. This is where my Greek odyssey began so I am very happy to have this chance to 'close the circle'.

So far I have focused on enjoying Corfu but the days are flying by and my mind is turning more and more towards Wales. This is starting to bring up issues and concerns about living in a new country. Yes, despite the fact that I was born in Wales and have visited regularly, after all this time of living away, it will be rather 'foreign' to me. I suppose that fellow ex-pats will appreciate more than anyone else what I am talking about. I would be very happy to hear from you!!

Thanks everyone for your encouragement so far in this adventure!
Love and light!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Syntax, Almond Blossom and Retreats in Wales – 70 Days and Counting!”

After more than a week I am finally able to write to you again. Without banging on I will tell you that I miss Hyena on my daily walk. And also to report that Charlie was subdued the whole time I was. Those of you with pets may have noticed that they reflect our moods back to us.

It has been very stormy on the island and on my walk yesterday – not on the beach as it was still awash with waves – I found that many of the spring flowers have been beaten down – daisies, buttercups and so on and most especially those gorgeous lilac sea orchids. But, during this natural hammering almond blossom has been defying the pelting rain and is looking fantastic.

It puts me in mind of Athens where an almond tree reached right into my front balcony. A few years ago after bringing in a few sprigs of it I got so inspired that I got a sketch pad and drew it. Then, got out my watercolours and painted it. I have not done this in years. I couldn’t’ resist scanning the painting which I will upload and share with you. It is very basic but gave me so much pleasure to create. I recommend sketching and painting as it is very therapeutic. You can read an article called “Let Daubing Put Colour Back Into Your Life!” on the Journalism page of my website if you need a little motivation.

Being on Corfu is a bit isolating but I do keep up with the news on the web – when I can get on line; that’s a bit hit-and-miss for me. When I was reading a report of the uprisings in the Middle East I realized that when I was trying to pronounce the word “protesters” I could not remember which syllable to put the emphasis on – the first or the second. It reminded me that I have this problem a lot!

Living abroad and speaking a foreign language I automatically follow the rules of the Greek language. Plus, it seems that the majority of Greeks in Athens speak English with an American accent (I have noticed that in ads for English lessons at home Americans are favoured (favored, ha, ha) – perhaps this is because so many of their relatives live in the States. This is ironic because generally, Greeks don’t have a high opinion of Americans as the quite frequent protestor attacks on the US embassy in Athens reveal. But they will explain that it is the US governments that they don’t like and not the citizens.) Anyway, between US English and Greek I am confused about my own language now. I hope that this problem will clear up when I am back in Britain.

Those of you that have lived abroad for some years will know exactly what I am talking about. When you visit – or even speak to friends in English here – do you find yourself stalling in your sentences too often for comfort saying “Ooh, sorry, I’m forgetting my English, can’t think of the word I want!”? Well, join the club. It’s very embarrassing isn’t it. As I do public speaking, radio shows, present workshops and so on it is something that is uppermost in my mind before each one.  Fortunately, I find that the adrenaline rush I get sharpens up my brain and helps me over this.

A friend (and former colleague) of mine from the Athens News, Kathryn Lukey-Coutsocostas, has a fortnightly column there that deals with issues like this. According to the particular column 'Are words failing you?', there is even an academically recognised name for this forgetfulness: first-language attrition. It is therefore a phenomenon which affects most people living abroad. So, don’t feel bad, you’re not losing it! I just hope that when I get home my brain will quickly take this block away and flood out English again.

Talking of flooding out – I finally had a big push on the content for a series of retreats in Wales, based on my book 9 Days to Heaven - which perfectly lends itself to this. Last night in the space of about two hours I came up with the outline of the whole 9 days (which I will present, probably as a series of one day a week for 9 weeks). I was so relieved. I have been berating myself because I was not working enough. But I don’t know why I give myself the hard time because I know that the creative process works like this. And I plan to hold a retreat specifically to help people (including other writers) to tap into this creativity through being still.

I hope that you find some time to be still this weekend…!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Rest in Peace Darling Hyena

“It’s only a dog,” protested Hyena’s callous killer when her owner caught up with the hit-and-run driver. She had not even been on the road but on the grass verge when she was struck - so make of that what you will folks. All I know is that she has left a lot of people – from the family that adopted her, to the many friends that she adopted, me included - feeling bereft.

She was hit at around noon and lasted about three hours. She was a sturdy dog weighing around 60 kilos and the vet thought there was hope. But it seems that her heart gave out. In the end she died peacefully in the back seat of the family car on the way home from the vet’s with her head on her master’s knee. (She was the beloved pet of Nula’s family whose apartment I am staying in.)

I had felt unsettled for hours but didn’t know why. I was going for a drive to do some errands and took a little snack out with me for Hyena. I looked around for her and when I didn’t see her I left it in the usual spot. Little did I know that at that time she had been dead for about five minutes. As I was coming back to my car the family arrived back and I learnt of Hyena’s sad fate. The sun continued to shine but I didn’t care. A while later when I went to say goodbye to her she was lying all cosy looking on a blanket as if she was asleep.

I have to stop now because I am crying. But I wanted to post this for her today because she was such a loving dog that she really deserves this small memorial.

RIP Hyena you touched my heart and I will always remember you…

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Hyena and Spring Flowers - 83 Days and Counting!

Today is once again warm and sunny and even warmer than yesterday because there is hardly any wind. This means that the sea – only yards from me – is calm and merely murmuring.

Charlie has been sunbathing on the balcony for a couple of hours – first on the table (naughty boy!) then on the chair facing the sea; my chair, but I’ve been busy with domestic stuff. I came onto the balcony to hang a little washing on my clothes horse (remember those?!) and as I walked past Charlie he languidly stretched out and hooked my trousers with one claw. This, of course, stopped me in my tracks. 
“What?” I asked him.
“Meow, meow, meow, meow,” he whined. (Cat language for, “Why aren’t you out here keeping me company” I presumed.)
“Okay, I’ll come and join you,” I assured him and he retracted his claw. It was time for breakfast anyway.

In a short time I was back bearing a tray of freshly brewed coffee, a warm croissant set on a plate along with a blob of cherry jam and knob of (real) butter.  I savoured all along with my gorgeous sea view.

Today the sea is a ruffle of pale petrol blue edged in white lace as it rustles on beige sand. The beach is inviting but I plan to walk there later in the day. For now I have more pressing things to do such as go and pick spring flowers for my little dining room table. Oh, and phone a couple of friends in Athens from the phone box down the road using the new card I bought yesterday. (It costs a fortune phoning from my mobile and I hope to enjoy a nice long chat instead of a garbled “hey how are you, yes I’m fine, bye” few minutes.

As I stepped into the sunshine my doggy friend Hyena (the woman who adopted her thought that’s what she looked like and the name has stuck) was waiting for me. She has been accompanying me on my walks for about 3 weeks now and it’s nice! So, she came with me to the telephone where I wasted about fifteen minutes trying in vain to get through to anyone. Part of the problem is that the number 3 key is faulty and you have to keep pressing and pressing it until it works and all my phone numbers contained a 3.

I gave up in the end.

As I started walking back home alone - I thought Hyena had left me; didn’t blame her – she came bounding out of a courtyard and we resumed our little walk. On the way I picked some delicate lilac flowers and some small orange daisy-like ones and some white daisies too. Fortunately it’s not necessary to know what flowers are called to enjoy them and they made a cheerful posy.

Yes, it is a day when a smile is on my lips the whole time. And the perfect day for thinking about projects…

Friday, 11 February 2011

Teresa and Charlie in Quarantine - 84 days and counting!

Hello from the beautiful green Greek island of Corfu where my cat Charlie and I are spending the winter while he completes his quarantine and I complete a number of projects.

Perhaps you know that it is not permitted to take pets into the UK from various other countries without them having a pet passport. This takes time and certain actions which take about seven months to complete. I am happy to say that Charlie is well along the way.

I have no complaints about the pet passport procedures. I'm just happy that it is possible to take him to the UK. It was not that long ago, when, to get your pet in, they had to stay caged up for 6 months.  Now that really was quarantine. This way, he’s doing his ‘time’ outside the country.  Just as soon as I work out how to do it I will upload a photo of Charlie so you can see how handsome he is.

Today has been warm and sunny. I went for a drive to enjoy the day and do some exploring. And, more importantly, to seek out some fresh supplies of food for Charlie. The local supermarket has a few of his favourites but not nearly enough of a variety to keep him happy for the next 84 days! Fortunately, I anticipated this and brought a stack of food with me, but I need to add to it soon.

The drive was lovely. Twisty turning roads through brooding olive groves dappled with sunbeams, and stuff like that - but more of that later. And, at my destination, Acharavi, I found not one, not two, but three pet shops! Unfortunately, not a one was open (closed for lunch – do you remember that?) but no matter. Now I know they are there I am optimistic that Charlie will be kept happy. I also popped into the resort of Roda but, apart from a few caf├ęs and tavernas that was also closed. But I had a little drive down to the sea and quickly drove away from it again. I did think to stop for a coffee and a leg stretch. But decided to drive back home to my own resort of San Stefanos (Avliotes – there are two resorts by the same name so mine is linked with the nearby village to identify it) and go for a walk on the beach instead.

It was while I was walking on the beach thinking about my projects and plans that I made the decision to set up this blog because: on one hand the time is flying by, but on the other it is not. And even as I write that I’m not quite sure what I mean either. Hmm. Well, I have been here for about 6 weeks and I don’t feel that I have achieved very much. So, that’s time flying by. But, 84 days remaining seems a heck of a long time to go and sometimes I wish I could just click my fingers and we could leave. But no. And in any case, I am not ready to leave yet, even if I could, because I have a stack of work to do.  So…that is my cue to finish this entry and get on with some work. What work is that? All will be revealed…Adio