Back to my back..

It’s a cloudy, grey, drizzly day, I am full of cold, coughing and struggling to breathe through my nose, lacking both sleep and energy, unable to taste or smell; and yet today, I cannot feel anything, but gratitude. Today is my CES birthday, a two year anniversary since my life-changing emergency spinal surgery. CES stands for Cauda Equina Syndrome, induced by a spinal cord injury that can provoke paraplegia, or a range of mobility issues, affects bowel and bladder, and pretty much everything from the waist down. I’m often asked what caused my spinal cord injury, and the short answer is: ‘I’m not sure, but an accumulation of events led to a disc gradually slipping and impinging on the nerve root’, this is the long answer:

I didn’t get my CES from a dramatic, adrenalin fuelled accident such as skiing or sky-diving, I didn’t acquire it in the aftermath of some dreadful car crash or a freak disaster, or even in the noble act of pregnancy or giving birth, nope mine was a boring, gradual onset of increasingly worrying symptoms, as I stoically (but stupidly) persevered with a bad back, just living an independent life, persisting in thinking I was stronger than my reality.

Looking back, there were several signs that there was a problem, but it is only in hindsight that I have been able to connect the dots, and see the warnings too late for me. I suspect my journey from Greece to the UK in December 2014 started the problem. I had left Greece in my trusty, 18 year old, Ford Fiesta, ‘Rubini’; a lovely old lady with relatively low mileage for her age, but holes in the floor, a disconnected (faulty) heater, and inadequate windscreen wipers. She was perfect for the few miles drive from my island home to the beach, and a fortnightly trip across the mountains to the main town, for vet visits and provisions, yet I had taken my chances and pushed my luck taking her to Southern Italy, where I had intended to spend my first winter with Platonas, my stray dog puppy. However, the home (and associated car) in Italy didn’t work out, and I figured my best option was to stuff everything back in to the still sandy Rubini, with Platon curled up neatly on the passenger seat beside me, and drive as far as I could towards London; hoping that if I fell short, it would be close enough that someone would help me, without having to distress Platon with an experience as aircraft cargo.

We were driving through the most breathtaking scenery, but equally as terrifying, road out of Italy, which was loaded with heavy cargo lorries from the port of Genoa. The AutoFiori (Autostrada A10) passes through Liguria, across a steep and sprawling hillside, though a series of tunnels and viaducts, sometimes plunging you into echoing darkness for almost 2 km, before ejecting you onto vertiginous viaducts, precariously perched high above ravines in couloirs that stream to a sparkling sea; almost too beautiful to take your eyes off, except that the road is too narrow, too fast, too busy and wayyy too dangerous to take your eyes off either. As I carefully negotiated my way through the perilous barrage of trucks and juggernaut lorries, in my underpowered old lady of a car, I suddenly felt a stabbing in my heels, too intense to ignore. I suspected I had simply tied the laces of my trainers too tightly, but remember first struggling to untie them whilst driving, and having to pull over at a service station to loosen them. I must have stepped out of the car to stretch my legs, completely unaware that I was relieving the pressure on my spinal cord, caused by a seemingly innocuous seating position. Anyway, I carried on my journey, making it all the way back to London, having a fantastically, wonderful adventure on the way, and irritatingly tight shoe laces (or so I thought) completely unaware of the damage I was doing.

After a short winter period in London, I had resolved to sell my home of 20+ years there, looking for something more dog friendly to accommodate my darling, but decided to wait until after another summer in Greece, so I packed up the house to rent it for the interim. My back ached from carrying heavily laden boxes of books, clothes, kitchenware, everything, into the garage; but you know, it was just a bad back, so I kept going. It was a bitterly cold winter, as I walked Platon round the sprawling graveyard, with glittering frost and plumes of our warm breath in the biting cold air, and yet despite the sub-zero temperatures, I noticed one foot was always pleasantly warm as if I had a heating system in the sole of my right boot. It took me a while to address, as it didn’t hurt, in fact it was a lovely contrast to the blue, cold toes of my left foot. But, since I realised it was a neurological issue, I eventually presented it to my GP, who dismissed it with ‘well if it doesn’t hurt, why worry?’ and I foolishly left it at that.

My drive back to Greece in April 2015 was in a car I bought ‘for Platon’, a Toyota Rav 4, with a much higher seating position, and much more room for my height, Platon, luggage, everything. We had a good journey down, apart from a strange bout of nausea and breathlessness, as I headed through the now familiar but no less intimidating deep tunnels through Liguria. I wondered whether it was purely psychological, but there was a lack of rationale to the feeling, I wasn’t afraid in my mind, despite my symptoms, which I eventually put down to an upset tummy, but I am now not so sure, and wonder whether somehow the duration of the journey, or even the memory of my stabbing heels was another unheeded warning.

My back was often a bit sore, I had packed up 20 years of accumulated living, well ok, ‘stuff’, into boxes, traipsed them down at least one, mostly two flights of stairs to the garage, then spent a week driving, and lived with a loving but stubborn dog of around 30+ Kg, whom I was often impatient enough to pick up, when his mood and mine differed, such as when he didn’t want to get in the car, and I did, for example. Then I found Leo (timid, terrified, and bearing the broken bones, bullets and many wounds of his abuse), and had two darling dogs to manage. They were absolutely fine most of the time, but Platon became reactive on the lead when I walked them together, I suspect in a protective manner of his much adored and fearful, little ‘brother’. I was probably a comical sight, walking along the curvaceous mountain roads, with Platon lunging and barking at anyone or any vehicle that approached us, as Leo hid nervously behind my legs, and leads tangled the three of us together. Fortunately they are quiet roads, but still, it wasn’t an easy walk for a bad back.

Then the storm came, we have some wonderfully dramatic electrical storms on the island, the thunder crashes (Zeus moving the furniture, as my dear friend Hilda quips), and lightening forks through pink and purple night skies. The rain relentlessly hammers on the glass balcony doors, and seeps through the cracks if we don’t secure the shutters, drumming on the roof and drenching absolutely everything! The electricity often fails, and we have to unplug the internet for fear of blowing the modem, so there’s little chance of anything other than watching the storm by candlelight, or sleeping. The dogs were excitable (Platon) and panicked (Leo), and as I was trying to keep them calm and hunker down for the night, I heard a faint scratching at the door, then mewing that grew with intensity. Dressed in my pyjamas, I manage to keep the dogs inside as I ventured out onto the step, finding a stray cat and her kitten, crying for mercy. My neighbours, the Russian ladies in the apartment below ours, were great cat lovers, and I remembered seeing a cat box on the wall of their patio. Thankfully, it was still there when I got soaked to the skin to fetch it, and after wrestling to keep the dogs inside and retrieve a dry towel for them to lie on, the cat and her kitten were keen to get in it. I struggled once more with the door, trying to keep the two dogs in as I brought in the cats; I lifted the not particularly heavy cat box, and felt a sharp stab in my lower back. It brought me to my knees, and as I knelt hunched over the crying kitten, with my wet hair plastered to my face, and rivulets running down my neck, on my knees, in the storm, on my doorstep, I did wonder how comical this painful story would be in the telling! I eventually managed to prize the door open, and slide the cat box inside, before crawling to bed, with Platon and Leo whimpering, seemingly sympathetic, as they settled beside me.

I spent about 3 weeks hardly moving from my bed, my Italian neighbours kindly took the dogs out for toilet walks every morning, my landlord gave them a quick walk some afternoons, and plentiful parcels of food arrived from friends and neighbours; such is the Greek virtue of philotomy, my back hurt like hell, but I was never hungry! The lovely local physiotherapist made house calls, and was reassured that the pain was only in my back and hadn’t radiated down my leg, and the doctor handed out pain-killers like sweeties.

Eventually I started to feel more able, and regained mobility, enough to take the car for a service in preparation for my now delayed journey, back to London. I set out early, to avoid driving in the heat of the day, leaving the dogs at home with the balcony doors open so the air could circulate, and they could lie watching the sail boats bob along across the still blue sea below. It seemed strange to be completely alone without their constant endearing company, and I breathed in deeply the solitude of my journey, across dusty mountain roads, strewn with lazy goats that dawdled precariously along the cliff edges. Whenever I approach the place where I first found Platon, a remote road, far from any villages or habitation, my chest starts to tighten, and I experience an emotional reaction; sometimes tearful (that poor, sweet, soul, left to starve and suffer), sometimes angry (those bastard monsters that could perpetrate such an act of brutal cruelty) and that day was no different, except that it was cut short, by amazement, and another Puppy! Poppy (short for Penelope) as she became, was a few months old, skinny and cowering in the road when I saw her, I stopped the car, and cursing that for once I didn’t have any leads or even treats on me, approached her very slowly. I squatted a few metres from her, and let her draw near, which she did tentatively at first, before planting herself submissively between my knees. I gently stroked her dusty fur, feeling her skinny ribcage and spine too easily, noticing the wounds on her hind quarters, wondering what I was going to do; but knowing I couldn’t leave her abandoned here in this wilderness to starve to death. I stood and sighed, before talking gently to her as I slowly walked over to the car with her following, opened the boot, into which she jumped without waiting for me to ask or change my mind. So suddenly I had three dogs to take back to the UK, well 4 actually, as I had already agreed to take Dexter, another dog to a home I had found for him in Switzerland en route. And so I must add a car journey, mostly alone with 4 dogs, my luggage and a bad back, for a week across Europe to another thing I inflicted on my poor back, when it was already struggling.

Once back in the UK, I tried not to drive too much for a while, I was tired, my back was still sore, but the easiest way to walk three untrained dogs, is to take them to a secure paddock (20 minutes drive away), and let them chase each other around for an hour. It wasn’t ideal, but it was manageable. I started studying canine behaviour, and found it impossible to sit through the lectures, standing at the back of class trying to stretch out the odd feeling in my leg, and then grimacing as the sharp stabs returned, just before a trip to Athens for a wedding. I remember at the airport, wondering why I had even contemplated anything with a heel, as my grey suede knee high boots weren’t exactly towering, but they definitely had a heel.. so I purchased some foldable pumps in duty free, a little leopard print pair of salvation, worth every single penny!

I arrived in Athens to be greeted by an old friend, a gorgeous English girl from our modelling days, decades ago. She warned me she was struggling with a dodgy knee as she whisked me through the streets to her home, where we collapsed on the sofa, and I suddenly couldn’t get up again. Every time I moved the shooting pains attacked, but you know, I didn’t think it was anything serious (?!?). So the two of us managed, we hobbled around together, laughing at our predicament, and gritting our teeth as we stoically soldiered on. I attended the wedding, even managing to dance a little in my newly purchased pumps, but after the frivolity faced another 4 hours seated on an aeroplane back to London, which really added insult to injury, as far as my back was concerned, literally.

The next day, having missed my dogs desperately, I drove them to the paddock for a run, except that I started to feel light headed and nauseas as I joined the motorway, and as fought to keep panic at bay, suddenly realised I couldn’t feel or move my right leg. This is not a pleasing revelation, whilst driving in excess of the speed limit on the M1, and I quickly searched for a safe solution. Fortunately there was very little traffic about, so I headed over to the hard shoulder (emergency lane) and braked shakily with the handbrake. I struggled to get out of the car and stumbled to the barrier, where I leant over breathing deeply, focusing on the toes of my boots, trying to stop myself from fainting. Again the change of position must have removed the impingement from the nerve, as I realised as I got my breath back, that I had regained mobility, if not all of the feeling in my right leg again. I made it to safety, but the pain when seated was excruciating, as if the muscle in my right thigh was tensing involuntarily, and I had to stop every 5 minutes to stand and relieve the pain.

I went back to my GP insisting on an MRI as quickly as possible, and endured the most painful car journey, lying agonizingly across the back seat, to get to the appointments. On receiving my results, the GP informed me that he would refer me to physiotherapy, despite having informed him of what I now know to be red flag symptoms, and I struggled through Christmas and New Year, with an irritatingly persistent urge to urinate, without passing much (neurogenic bladder), and what I thought was an upset tummy (impaired bowel control). Eventually, impatient with the GP’s tardy referral, I booked myself to see an osteopath locally, who took one look at my MRI, and recognised my symptoms, before sending me immediately to A&E (ER room), where I was operated on ASAP. (You can read that episode in my previous post: When I woke from surgery, my heels felt as if they were being stabbed with hot, sharp knives, which led me to discover that they are the site of the insertion for the affected nerves, suddenly the early warning signs made sense.

My outcome is incredibly lucky; I have almost full mobility, although two years later I am still working on building my core strength, and still can’t lift anything heavy, or even push a full supermarket trolley. Despite my initial fears, and necessity of a second emergency surgery, I am able to use the toilet normally, and don’t have to rely on the catheters, as I feared so dreadfully. Most of the saddle-numbness has disappeared, apart from a small area on my right thigh. The PTSD I suffered post-surgery, seems to have abated, I haven’t had a panic attack for at least 6 months, but I am still careful about driving on motorways, especially in the dark.

I know from the CES support forums that I am definitely one of the fortunate ones; many of my fellow sufferers have had to adjust to life in wheelchairs, or with walking frames and AFOs (Ankle Foot Orthosis – plastic supports). Many people with CES suffer with incontinence (both types), and rely on catheters and unpleasant evacuation techniques as part of their daily routines. Many people’s relationships fall apart, they lose their ability to work, and suffer with debilitating depression, and isolation, as a result of their CES. Whilst my surgery wasn’t life-changing in those ways, it has given me perspective, I no-longer strive to be fitter, faster, stronger in the gym; I am content to be able to walk the dogs and carry smaller hand bags. I’ve found a true appreciation for simple pleasures, and take time to reflect on my abilities, rather than dwell on my inabilities or failings. I am also acutely aware of an increased empathy for anyone that struggles with mobility issues, and hope that my increased awareness is reflected in increased kindness towards others.

So, a little back ache at the end of the day, is not something I can complain about, I might not be able to ski or ride horses again, but I can walk my dogs; and trust me, the little things really are the big things, sometimes we just need a little perspective! Please take care of yourselves, especially your backs, and if you have any suspicious symptoms, please insist on a thorough investigation, and don’t let doctors fob you off with their lack of concern or failure to take you seriously. Love & blessings, Hxx

{Photo: Rubini, with Platon and I on board, Greece 2014. Words, by me, Hayley Darby © 2018}

If you want to know more about CES here is a useful little video:

Joy on a grey day

nurse teaIt’s a cold grey day here, and I’m lying on my day bed with Platon lying against my legs, his chin resting gently on my ankles, as he snoozes between watching the world outside the long French windows. Leo has trampled all over me, and the bed, searching for a comfy spot, but dissatisfied with all his options, has moved to the sofa where he’s curled up alone and uncharacteristically grumbling. He’s usually my sunshine, a super happy chap, full of joyful enthusiasm, and the friendliest, most affectionate dog I could think of; but today he’s having an ‘off’ moment, and comically grumbles in little half barks and almost growls at noises outside. I suspect he’s over tired, sulking and like a toddler fighting sleep, he will soon give in to that sweet dark oblivion, and float to another realm of consciousness. I wonder if he dreams of our favourite little beach in Greece, and swimming out in the clear turquoise waters, which he does so, much further than I dare to. He has a leg injury that gives him a disadvantage on land, but in the sea he’s unstoppable. Finally, his little chest has started to rise and fall rhythmically, and we are a peaceful little trio in our cosy abode. I stifle a yawn as I type, and Platon sighs loudly, as I pull the blankets up a little higher, and he snuggles back into me. I too could fall asleep, I tire easily since my surgeries; especially since I have started my physiotherapy exercises and increased my activity daily.

Yesterday I had a hospital appointment; it was the first time I had been back since my surgery. I still feel somewhat fragile; an awareness of my vulnerability, previously not even glimpsed, as I felt fit and strong, and lead an active lifestyle. Walking in public places makes me anxious, my injury (spinal) is invisible to most, as I can walk unaided and have no casts or bandages. It’s a ridiculous fear of being knocked, although I’m assured my spine is now stable, it still feels odd, and I am acutely aware of the risks associated with my condition, however small they are in reality. I saw the urology nurse, since after my first operation there was a complication with my bladder function requiring a further surgery, and yesterday I got a clean bill of health, a huge relief. My Cauda Equina experience has certainly helped me appreciate how much the little things, really are the big things!

As I waited in the hospital lobby for my lift home, I met Joy, a health care worker that truly lives up to her name. She took a moment to recognise me, (I clearly look very different with freshly washed hair, dressed and standing, to my hospital bed state), but her face soon lit up, as she recited my bed and bay number on the ward. Every morning of my hospital stay, Joy greeted the ward with her sunny smile and sing song voice, serving us breakfast, lunch and supper, remembering how we all take our tea, and our individual food preferences. She was always cheerful, thoughtful and considerate, and she brightened the room with her smile. When she made her rounds, she served us all as if we were her favourite customers in a smart restaurant. Maybe it’s maybe not the tea, but the person serving it thats the best medicine. This small part of our day made me feel more human, it was a time when as we picked our meals from the menu, however basic, that we regained some independence, choosing gave a small sense of control; when the rest of our day was determined by our medical team and hospital routines. Again, I am reminded of the little things that make a difference; and wonder how often we have missed opportunities to give a little that will mean so much to someone else, without us ever realising how much importance it is to them.

Meeting Joy yesterday reminds me how grateful I was for the compassion and kindness of the nurses and health care workers that cared for me during my hospital stay. I cannot imagine what a tough job it is, and have huge respect for all of them. If everyone worked with the same selfless enthusiasm that Joy does, we would all reflect more sunny smiles in our environments. Talking of which, it might be a cold grey day in February here, but it’s not a bad day, we have blossom on the window sill and daffodils on the table, and Leo has woken up, back to his happy smiley self, enthusiastically stretching into a play-bow and wagging his tail, ready for another adventure. I hope that you are seeing a glimmer of the joys of spring, wherever you are too.. unless of course you’re in the Southern hemisphere, in which case, enjoy your Summer, and send it back to us in the Northern hemispheres soon, please!

Blessings & love, Hxx


{Photo via Pinterest, sadly uncredited; words by me, Hayley Darby © 2016}

Swings and simple things

swing sky

It’s a cool cloudy day in London, and I’m sitting at the window table of my favourite bistro, armed with a latte and wondering where the sun has gone. We had a beautiful weekend in London, it was 17 C/63 F yesterday and sunny, so that all of London’s parks and pavement cafes were bustling with carefree happy faces that come out of hiding when the sun graces us in the Northern latitudes. I drove south of the river, contrary to urban myth one does not need a passport for such an expedition, but it is advisable to pack plenty of patience for the heavy traffic and ‘weekend drivers’. The journey of 8 miles from my home to my brother’s can easily take an hour, so it’s also a good opportunity to play some music and sing my heart out in privacy, without inflicting my less than sonorous vocals on the world. Having been away from London for a while, it was a fresh chance to appreciate the city’s majestic beauty, as sun cast elegant shadows on the regency architecture and gleamed off the windows of the modern mirrored structures. The early blossom on the cherry trees shimmered gently in the breeze, and the pavements buzzed with more energy than the collected efforts of the numerous runners that pounded away, plugged into their ipods.

My arrival finally at my brother’s doorstep, was heralded with the cheeky grin of my niece M, who informed me that my Christmas present was still waiting for me to open it.. as she peered expectantly at the bags I was carrying. M is not yet 3 years old, and her sister Z is almost one; so obviously the most important factor of my most recent three-month trip abroad was that I had indeed missed Christmas. She had also been waiting patiently to devour the pretty iced cookies that had been freshly baked for the occasion. So after the important unwrapping with tea and biscuits, my brother and I left his wife in peace and quiet as we took the girls to the common (a rather large park). It’s only a short walk by adult standards, but when your legs are as long as the average three year old, that can be awfully tiring. So we stopped for a makeshift picnic by the bandstand, indulging in some people watching as M found an amateur photographer shooting his girlfriend with his very long lens fascinating; before heading to the playground with heady anticipation.

Both M and Z could spend hours it seems on the swings, in fact most of the children seemed very content to watch the world fly back and forth with demands of ‘higher, higher!’ squealed between giggles to their pushers. I’ll admit I wished there was an empty ‘big girl’s’ swing for me too, to feel the carefree lack of responsibility on a Sunday the sun shone again. Children are smart enough to appreciate the simple things, before they are corrupted with entitlement and expectation, and I wonder when and how we let things get complicated as we advance into adulthood. Maybe there’s a way we can find it again amidst all our grown-up-ness, if we stop worrying about the things we cannot change and focus on appreciating the little things. So as I write this on a Monday, and the clouds part to let the sun shine in, I wonder where the nearest park is, and if I can get there before school finishes ☺

I hope you have a lovely day, and if there’s a moment in between all your busy responsibilities, that you slip momentarily into the carefree child you once were, and let your heart soar skyward again?! Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest; words by Hayley Darby ©2014}

Autumnal acceptance


Good morning everyone!! Today I woke slowly, gradually drifting to the surface of consciousness, carrying contentedness into wakefulness from somewhere sweet in my sleepiness. I lay for a while in the gentle opaque light of another cloudy day, listening to the gentle patter of raindrops on the skylight, and let my thoughts wander towards autumn. Something has changed, and I realise I’m ready to let the last rays of summer slip through my fingers, to embrace the changing season. I suspect that after my trip to Cali, the arrival of cooler days in London felt too abrupt, but after a few sunny days on my Greek island, I feel replete with summery memories to face the cooler, darker days; as if my summer was incomplete without some Greek sun. Βεβαίως, φυσικά!

I stirred slowly, cosy under the heavy blankets, reluctant to expose my warm skin to the cool morning, but the thought of coffee became too tempting to resist; so I dressed quickly in a favourite blue sweater, and soft yoga pants, to keep snug despite the elements. I dashed through the heavy raindrops, noticing how they patterned the pool with their pretty concentric ripples, and jumped in the jeep (kindly lent), to drive up the hill to Liz & Joes for my grande cappuccino. There is a mellow atmosphere in the cafe today, the gentle flow of locals and tourists alike discussing the weather, and the conflicting forecasts. The rain falls steadily and persistently, but the absence of wind makes it feel quite calming, and I’m happily resigned to a day writing in coffee shops, noticing the nostalgia of autumn, and the slower pace it brings.

I ventured down to the port, where the choppy water bounced the few remaining yachts around their moorings. The quay was quiet, the rain bounced in puddles, chairs and tables sat desserted, canopies were drawn down, and waiters stood in doorways, watching the arrival of φθινόπωρο – fthinoporo (autumn) in the harbour. For them the end of the summer means a welcome rest, and for many a return to families and homes on the mainland. Autumn is after all a time for retreat, as nature gently turns within, to work on internal transformation, invisible till the spring. As the trees shed their leaves, maybe it’s also time for us to relinquish expectations, and observe our thoughts and feelings; maybe this is what makes it the season of the soul, a valuable time to pause and contemplate our journey. Wishing you a beautiful October day, whatever your geographic location, and hope that you find beauty whatever season you happen to find yourself in. Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photograph sadly uncredited, via Pinterest; words ~Hayley Darby ©2013}

As summer fades to fall

sea scape

I woke early this morning, the wind howling round the villa having found an unsecured shutter to bang rhythmically and intrude my dreams. I lay for a while staring up at the gauzy mosquito net, and noticed my body stretched out across the bed, having kicked off the heavy blanket I had thought was a prudent addition when I retired yesterday. So I snuggled back under the covers, and curled up in the hope of slipping back into dreams, but the errant shutter persisted, calling me to secure it. Dressing quickly in cosy jersey, I braved the elements, and whilst the wind whipped my hair about my shoulders, adjusted the noisy culprit and fished some wayward lounger cushions from the pool, before tidying the furniture and retreating inside for hot tea on the ample sofa.

I checked some emails, and chatted briefly with friends at home on FB, assuring them that sunny photo’s of yesterday were indeed a blessing in October, as we now have rain forecast here for several days. Then noticing the hunger pangs that echoed the empty refrigerator, bundled up in my sailing jacket and made my way up the lane to Liz & Joe’s café/deli for a huge cappuccino and their very generous serving of French toast with mascarpone and preserved figs. The café is a popular meeting post for locals, Greek and ex-pats alike, so that on a grey, drizzly day it was soon busy with lively chatter as the children floated amongst the tables, entertained by everyone. Liz worked tirelessly in the kitchen, whilst Joe waited tables, infusing his own eccentric brand of self-amusing humour into every conversation.

Deciding that today was a work (writing) day, I took my leave to find a quieter spot, abandoning my initial idea to travel to the next port since the fresh rain on the oily roads of a whole summer, can cause precarious driving conditions on the beautiful winding road along the coast. I chose instead to seek refuge in a quiet cocktail bar at the hotel with super-squashy sofas, and delicious homemade cookies, served abundantly with my tea by the staff that know my weakness for them. I hid amongst the books, which have doubtless been well read and left to share, by the seasons guests; and let the emotional Greek soundtrack wash over me, as sonorous heartbreak and melancholy filled the air. Perfect for a rainy day in Paradise, and as my dear friend ADS says, ‘there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing’, and maybe that should include ‘choice of perspective’.

The rain falls gently, as the clouds sit low on the neigbouring islands, and the sky lends an opaque light to the lush green landscape, that no doubt rejoices silently at this change in climate. The seascape is brooding and moody, with the blurred horizon seeping into the sky almost imperceptibly, devoid of the numerous white sails usually apparent. There’s a calm and cosy atmosphere, a feeling of surrender to the changing season, and an acceptance that summer has finally faded into fall, gracefully and beautifully to let us appreciate the soulful season, whose chill in the air helps us seek the warmth within our hearts, if we let it.

I hope that wherever you are, you are finding some gift in the weather conditions too; for life is always more agreeable when we focus on what we can change, and accept those we cannot, and beauty exists anywhere we are prepared to find it. Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest, words ~Hayley Darby ©2013}

Waiting for the storm..


Today I woke late (again), to find that moody grey clouds, which hung heavily over the port, had replaced the sunny blue skies of yesterday. The almost glassy still waters had morphed into choppy waves that caused the yachts to bob up and down, jostling for a safe mooring; indeed many local boats have been removed from the water completely. We are waiting for a storm, and the storms we get here are quite a spectacle, trust me! They are fierce, dramatic, exciting, beautiful, and oh so humbling; a real reminder of how impuissant our existence is on this planet when nature unleashes her energy to the sound of Zeus’ wrath. Or as my dear friend Hilda says of the thunder, “There goes Zeus moving the furniture around upstairs again!”

I wandered around the quay, finding Kostas in much better shape than yesterday, in fact he informs me that rather than ‘better’ he’s in fine form; quite a spectacular recovery! We sat on the deck watching the storm come in with our cappuccinos and shared traditional pastries from the local bakery. The change in weather means more work for the locals, as umbrellas and canopies are tied down, outdoor seating (which makes up the majority) is stripped of its upholstery, and anything that’s not nailed down is stowed away securely. The bars and cafes are also preparing to be busy, as we all cram in to the limited space when the rain starts, to sit out the storm in relative comfort with company. Meanwhile the visiting flotillas linger in the harbour, rather than risk the white-capped waves that wait beyond the lighthouse, as their crews sit on deck patiently waiting.

I spent the day visiting friends, lunching with the lovely Tselenti family at the big house on the hill, MT having cooked a feast for her mother and 4 brothers, who all tucked in heartily, between shifts managing their two hotels. I called in to see my oldest friend ‘Speridoula’ and my special friend Phoebus at the taverna with the best view across to the neighbouring island. When we met 14 years ago, Speri didn’t speak much English, and I certainly didn’t speak any Greek, but we quickly became firm friends based on some serious feet-stamping laughter and a twinkle in the eyes that made words completely unnecessary. Now we manage quite decent conversations, despite poor grammar and including much gesticulation, which is an amusing and beautiful testament to our friendship. Phoebus is one of the most determined and inspiring souls I know, he suffered a life changing moped accident years ago that left him severely disabled, unable to control his body including his speech and capacity to manage tasks we so often take for granted such as dressing, eating, or bathing unaided. He is such a brave, patient, courageous soul, and I adore him. Today we hugged and laughed, and I felt his strength emanate from his body, he improves each time I see him, slowly but doggedly determined to stand on his own two feet again.

The air is thick and heavy, but it’s still warm despite the breeze that tugs at the awnings and canopies; the dark sky has been threatening rain for hours and I have been holed up in a favourite patisserie with my laptop, in anticipation of the rain that slashes horizontally. Several cups of coffee and pots of tea later, the light is fading and just as I wonder whether the storm will pass by uneventfully, the distant rumble of thunder creeps into the chilled out music currently playing.

I am not a patient creature by nature, which doesn’t always work out best for me, but some things simply cannot be hurried, and life seems to teach that acceptance is key. Aristotle reminds us that ‘patience is bitter, but the fruit is sweet’. So as I wonder how soon I will sink my teeth into the soft flesh to release the juiciest pleasure, lightening fills the sky, flashing across the water; followed by much closer, quickly advancing thunder, and a dirty great grin creeps right across my happy face.. oh I DO love a storm!! The clouds have crept in, hanging heavy and low, almost obscuring our neighbouring island. The temperature has distinctly dropped a few degrees, but I am still comfortable in my shorts & vest, after all the less I wear, the less laundry will be necessary. Skin is certainly a fantastic design element of the human body; thermostat controlled and wipe dry, perfectly suited to dancing in the rain, maybe! In all probability we will lose internet connection soon, so I will post this and just let you know I’m barefoot and ready. “Bring it on Zeus, I’m in the mood for dancing, just throw the rain at me!” ☺ Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest; words ~Hayley Darby ©2013}

Hope springs..

leggy am1

Good morning everyone!! Today I woke late as dreams of possibilities, that no longer seem tangible, slipped through my fingers like fine sand in a sea breeze. I lay on the pillow, lamenting the loss a little before focusing on the present to find that the reality I am left holding is not such a hard truth to swallow, and I decide to chase it down with a soya latte. The sunlight pushing at the curtains, burst into the room as I drew them, like a playful puppy that bounces around everything a little too enthusiastically. I stood for a while with my forehead against the cool glass of the window pane, and closed my eyes to feel the light on my skin, before smiling up at the baby blue sky that continues endlessly on this beautiful morning.

I made my latte and sat on the sunny end of the sofa, chatting to dear GH on the telephone, making plans for later, and moved my legs to catch the rays that stream through the window. I imagine for a moment that I’m planning a walk along the beach, rather than tea in Richmond; and right on cue, a cloud floats in to relocate my thoughts back to a February day in London. The daffodils on the mantelpiece remain cheerful, and promise that it might not be here yet, but spring is coming, and the clouds move to reveal the sun reassuringly. And I wonder where hope would flourish if we didn’t face disappointment, would spring’s beauty be appreciated without the winter it follows, and could we build new dreams if we didn’t let go of the old ones? ..and then my mind was back to wondering about which beach I would like to wander along..

I hope that the sun shines on your part of the world today too, but if it isn’t, know that it will come back again soon. Blessings & love ❤ Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited, via kikisloane.tumblr}

Good morning : ))

am glam

Good morning everyone!! Today I woke early, too early, and lay in the twisted sheets hoping sleep would reclaim me, back to the depths of oblivion where nothing matters so it’s easier to see how we are, really. I listened to my breath, trying to quiet my brain, before I realized that it was my heart I was hearing, and sighing sent love to those I care about, before getting up to greet the morning. I wrapped up in a robe and descended the stairs in search of coffee; a hug in a mug to compensate for sleep deprivation, and gratefully inhaled the rich aroma that filled the kitchen. I sat in the half-light with my latte, snuggled on the awesome sofa watching the sun rise, as a golden glow gently crept up the sky. Hints of amber highlighted the wisps of clouds that streaked across the horizon, and smiled beautifully at the dawning day, a warm light cast through the window settling on the bookcase momentarily, before a paler whiter light followed, and an opaque blanket of palest grey settled as a backdrop beyond the rooftops and bare branches of the trees by my home.

I lit some cheerfully fragranced candles and ran a hot bath, laced with reviving oils of grapefruit, juniper and rosemary to soak away the fatigue clinging to my temples. I let my mind wander down familiar paths in my heart, noticing details in the pictures committed to memory, a reminder of how much we unwittingly communicate without words, and smiled at recollection. I had a hearty bowl of porridge for breakfast and busied myself with patient notes in preparation for work, then dressed quickly in a black dress and prepared for clinic. I’m looking forward to seeing colleagues after the Christmas break, and am keen to see my patients’ progress as well as their New Years motivation.

I have an extra treat today too, an old friend visiting from Florida is calling in for afternoon tea, to share news of her new marriage and business, life is full of surprises! I hope that you are looking forward to going back to work too, I feel very privileged that I do what I love for a living, and although it wasn’t easy, and is still a work in progress, the transition from my previous career certainly feels worth it. I guess if you’re not doing something you love then the new year is a good time to change direction, and if you are, be brave it might be difficult, and the path might not be immediately clear, but I believe that if you follow your heart, you won’t regret it ♥ Time for me to rush and get ready, I’m going in early to meet a friend for lunch, and popping by Selfridges to pick up some coffee.. oh the sales are still on? Really!! ; )) Wishing you a wonderful day! Blessings & love, Hxx

Good morning!

Good morning everyone! Today I woke late, still tired after a late night, fighting off the fatigue that tethered me to slumber, as I pushed back the duvet and stretched my legs, pushing my toes into the cool brass of the bedstead. I got up for coffee, wrapping up in a soft robe against the chill in the air, and pushed my hands through ‘messy hair’ as I descended the stairs for the coffee.

It was a fairly grey start to the day here in London, but there was a softness, a beauty in that opaque light that gently caught the dew on the geraniums on the window sill. Those soft delicate petals belying their hardiness, resilient and proud, though their leaves are withering, as the green become mixed with yellow, upon a bed of curled up brown, brittle and fragile. I took my coffee into the lounge, where the pale honey colours are warm and comforting, and sat on the awesome white sofa, to contemplate my feelings.

I’m feeling rather tired, and a headache threatens at my temples and behind my tired eyes, a reminder of some changes I need to make; getting to bed earlier would be a good starting point! I ran a steaming hot bath, laced with oils of bergamot and juniper to lift my energy, and soaked decadently until I realized the day was slipping away. I have rather a lot of paperwork to catch up on, some important patient notes at the top of the list, and an exciting creative project I’m ready to delve into. So I breakfasted on a large bowl of porridge with pear, cinnamon, and a generous dollop of Greek yoghurt, before getting lost for a while in correspondence.

Feeling a little rejuvenated, it seems the sun is too, as it sneaks through the clouds occasionally, inspiring me to venture out in the cool fresh air and breathe in deeply this day that will never come again. So I made a pact, to address the most important paperwork with a second latte, over the road at the café where the baristas always make me smile with their happy banter in a mix of English & Italian. Then I’m going to walk up through the village, to wander on the Heath, observing the seasonal changes amongst the meadows and woodland, count my blessings, and dwell in possibility. I hope that you have a beautiful day too, and find some way to make time to listen to your heart and check where it’s leading you. Some directions aren’t easy to follow, but if we keep paying attention, we’ll find our paths, and the courage to follow them ♥ Blessings & love, Hxx

Good morning & a cup of wisdom

Happy Monday everyone!! : )) This morning I woke slowly drifting into consciousness, still feeling fatigued after a busy weekend and several consecutive late nights, and yet ready to embrace the structure and productivity of the weekday awaiting. I lay in bed noticing the thoughts that struck me; a change in direction and a shift in perspective, and I smiled as I stretched, feeling positive. I sent love to those I care about, before kicking off the duvet and descending the stairs in search of coffee. It’s a rather cloudy here start here in London, the bright, sunny blue skies of yesterday have been swept away for another cool, damp, day in November; but the wind ripples playfully through the leaves in the trees, that are hastily shedding, and it’s not currently raining.

I sat on the sofa with my latte, reflecting on the weekend; a theatre trip with my family, celebratory drinks, a delightful dinner and the pleasure of driving home through the quiet streets in the small hours, a beautiful walk on the Heath with a fellow alumni, catching up on years of our stories, and supper in the favourite bistro, always fun with charming company. So feeling blessed, I don’t mind the fatigue that stubbornly persists, and decide it’s a double latte kinda start to the week, indulging again as I review my list and plan my day. I’m focusing on alternative aspects of some projects I’m working on, and things feel fresh and exciting, as I pursue different avenues with renewed motivation.

I hope that your week starts well, and finds you smiling. Sometimes a simple shift in our view can have such a powerful effect on our attitude, and that’s what makes all the difference! Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo sadly uncredited.. but I’d love this mug for my morning cup of wisdom! : )) }