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…!

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