I was lying on a sunbed on Stoupa Beach today when I discovered that I’d let the domain name lapse for SwaggerAndSoul.com! While all my domains are usually on auto-renew, I had some problems with my bank in the early part of the year (very long complicated story!) and my card had declined.
This was not because of a lack of cash, but because the account had been closed summarily after a mix-up with companies house and my accountant. Told you it was a long, complicated story. With many annoying ramifications.
Having sorted the domain name (cost me $112 in all, very helpful lady at Namecheap.com, well done!) I thought I had better bring things up to date with a new blog post.
First of all, I’m feeling much, much better.
Three years on from Steve’s sudden demise on Saturday 12 March 2016 and while I still miss him and think about him every single day, the roaring, terrifying, debilitating emotional pain has gone.
“They” say grief starts to ease at around eighteen months and they didn’t lie.
I remember the very day things started to improve.
I sat on a sunbed, feet digging into warm sand, sun shining brightly out of the bright blue sky overhead, listening to the wash of little waves on the sand and the cry of happy children. I realised to my surprise, that I was happy. Just for that moment, sure, but it was the first time for years. It was the first such moment but not the last.
But it’s a bit like being ill, you don’t really realise how bad it was till it’s totally gone. I look at photos of me from that time and imagine that I can see the awful pain in my eyes, because I can still remember how it felt.
I’m not sure I’ll ever forget how it felt. I’m sure to experience it again in life, but at least it won’t be a first time. It won’t be such a shock.
This year I started travelling again for work. I’ve been to Australia, to Sydney and the Gold Coast. Then I went to Las Vegas for the most amazing week ever. Expect blog posts about those trips very soon.
For now, I’m off to cook dinner and find the final of Britain’s Got Talent. It’s a Sunday, after all.
I’ll leave you with this picture of a recent Stoupa sunset.
I host or co-host four podcasts – you might enjoy one or all of them, they are all 100% free. There’s Own It! which I co-hosted with Judith Morgan and it’s all about being an entrepreneur and having a life, then there’s Clicks & Leads, for business owners who want to build a powerful personal brand online. Pete Jenkins and I talked about business, marketing and tech on Poke It!, then there’s Write Club, for aspiring writers, published authors and readers.
Own It! The Podcast | For entrepreneurs & business owners everywhere
Bringing years of experience to the table, great friends and ex-business partners Nicola & Judith Morgan share – in their trademark straight-talking, humorous way…
- what they’ve been up to that week
- what’s inspired, impressed & infuriated them
- business book recommendations
- the tips, tools & techniques they use themselves
- mixing up deeply practical business “how to” with the psychology of success and clients challenges and success stories.
As your business depends on you 100% and you need some sort of work/life balance they don’t neglect how to combine being a successful entrepreneur with being a partner, parent, sibling & child of ageing parents.
Nicola & Judith are living the entrepreneurial life themselves every single day, so who better to learn from in this down to earth, funny, quirky podcast? Listen & subscribe here…
Write Club The Podcast | For aspiring writers, published authors and readers everywhere
Clicks & Leads | For business owners who want to build a powerful brand online
Clicks & Leads Audio & Video Podcast
Nicola Cairncross started online with nothing but a book about building websites at the age of 38. She bought her first domain in 1995 and witnessed the arrival of blogging, Twitter & Facebook. She has vast experience in marketing many “real world” businesses online from hotels to record labels, hydroponic wheatgrass manufacture, cement microscopy and fertility specialists along the way.
Nicola now lives in Greece a lot of the time (her long-held dream) but travels the world, speaking at conferences, specialising in creating digital marketing strategy for SME’s and helping aspiring online business owners be more successful via her Clicks & Leads Membership Community. She’s managed to build two six-figure businesses while working at home, bringing up her two children who are now grown up and forging their own creative careers online
The olive men came today with their nets and their chainsaws, rupturing my Sunday with loud buzzing, shouted instructions and much laughter.
Not before time, as the the ripe olives have been silently dropping with purple thuds, staining stone and plastic alike for a week or so now.
Where do they come from, the olive men and women, and who calls them? How do they know it’s the right time for this tree or that? Perhaps there is a secret schedule they follow, hundreds of years old, arriving to clear a grove at a time and then haul the sacks to the press.
Unlike the wood men who have to be summoned by telephone through the local taverna owner, he who knows someone who can help with just about anything. The order goes “One trailer load please, smaller pieces please, not “wet” wood please, as it’s a wood burning stove”.
Then you wait, knowing they’ll deliver with no notice just when you decide to head out down the village, or when you don’t have the cash in the house, or when it’s raining in the bibical fashion it does round here, but they deliver anyway and if you are not there, stack it just where they please and come back for the money.
“Come” my neighbour said as she stood at my front door. “Come and see the fun, they are trying to get to the trees in the ravine and are clambering about like monkeys”.
No chance, I’ve heard your stories of how they suck you in with tales of fun, then you are trapped for several days by your own personal sense of commitment, leaving you stiff and broken for a week after, by the unaccustomed hard work.
Looking out of the window in one of my coffee breaks, I saw new faces, both men and women, strangers who must have come for the picking season.
They leave my garden bare and tidy, taking nets of olives with them, leaving branches to be burned. I’m not sure who will return to do this, I’m confident someone will. Our little houses sit in the middle of olive groves of great antiquity, people have been following the seasons in this very spot for over 3000 years.
Last year, when I first arrived, I remember a big fire with much smoke and all the local men, Greek and English laughing together, revelling in the flames the way men do, around bonfires, barbecues and sports events.
Later, I walked my rubbish and recycling down the hill, followed by a black and white cat sporting a collar but acting hungry, confident he’s found a new owner. My rubbish attracts him like diamonds but as we pass the chickens with their gut-wrenching scents, the cat peels away silently as we reach the part of the road where the guard dogs live. He knows the limits of his territory.
I hurled my recycling into the bins outside my friends’ house, a source of endless annoyance to the owner. Unlike the locals I virtuously continue to the main bins, studiously ignored by the municipality now that the tourists have departed with the last charter flight.
I sat for a while by the dual churches to catch my breath, one tiny and ancient, the other much bigger, sporting modern stained glass but the stonework unfinished due to lack of funds, imagining the days gone past when the square outside the church would have been filled with village ladies catching up on the news.
They have moved on to the seats on the new promenade and like them, I am drawn next to the deserted beach flanked by sleeping tavernas, all bare tables and plastic shrouds to protect from the occasional winds.
The old people still pace the streets slowly, the men zipped firmly into anoraks and large hairy shawls clutched around the shoulders of the old ladies.
“Kali Spera!” I say cheerfully to every single one, to dispel the awkwardness of being the only other person on the street. They respond in kind, but in surprise, used to being invisible in the throngs of summer visitors.
The empty beach is being gently pounded by the waves, smoothing the summer footsteps away, creating lace at the edges of each wave from the torn up seaweed. The last remaining broken sunbeds huddle against the sea wall, waiting to be dragged off by the scrap metal man, tossed onto his flatbed truck with the ubiquitous loudspeaker.
Red and pink streaks wound the sky as the sun sinks with a silent sigh behind the mountains of the next peninsula. The gloom deepens as I walk slowly towards the middle stretch, where the lights of the two remaining cafes and the sell-all supermarket twinkle gamely against the fast-moving dark.
The first taverna shelters some English friends but I am not ready for direct conversation yet, I’ve been editing podcasts all day and I need to ease myself in gently. I need bright lights, local chatter and some funky music. The taverna favoured by the local Brits tends to play laid-back music from the ‘60’s to cater for the older clientele, while the second is firmly catering to the young locals. I like this place, it takes years off me.
Midweek this sophisticated bar shapes-shifts back into a traditional kafenion, filled with men watching sport, mulling over their strong coffee and playing the local version of backgammon. But at weekends it’s full of locals in their late teens, early twenties, enjoying the lights, music and laughter, which never fails to remind me that life will explode in the sleepy village once more come Easter.
Today it’s full of familiar faces, who work behind bars and serve tables in the summer. I’m greeted cheerfully as I fumble through my responses then sit in a seat with my back to a wall, not too near a loudspeaker or one of the big flat screen televisions, where I can happily people watch. Eleni knows my winter order, hot Nescafe with “milk and medium sugar”, so it arrives promptly.
Makeup free girls who would give Helen Of Troy a run for her money, sporting designer casual wear and ponytails, are comparing notes on phones and pretending to ignore the boy-men, who sport an entertaining array of facial hair in spite of never having heard of Movember!
I sip my coffee and dip my wafer thin Amaretti biscuit, neatly lining up the tools of my trade on the table. One book to read, a Moleskine notebook to write in if the urge takes me, my mobile phone ready to catch text messages from my family or Shazam any particularly funky tunes.
I sit alone but not lonely, marvelling at the latest goddess-like addition to the waiting staff. I’m sure she’s not gone unnoticed by the young men or the older ones who sit outside, unwilling to be subjected to the relentless, but surprisingly tasteful, pop music, nursing their strong coffee and later ouzo. They stare at the sea, enigmatically, as greek men have in tavernas for thousands of years, occasionally grunting greetings at each other as another arrives.
Sometimes I order a glass of rose here, especially if there’s a match on and it fills up but more usually, as the late afternoon wears on, the lure of my own language and the company of my fellow Brits become stronger. Pausing for some essential supplies from the supermarket, while avoiding the demonic parrot-in-residence, Takis, I walk slowly to the second taverna and sit at one of the side tables, ordering my customary “tetato” of rose, now ready and willing for a chat.
I’m enjoying simple pleasures, concentrating on living in the moment, slowing my brain down and appreciating my surroundings by noticing every little thing. I focus determinedly on slipping seamlessly into the endless movement of time, pacing the seasons rolling on relentlessly, feeling part of it all and part of the bigger picture.
These are the things that keep me sane as I piece together my new life, as I rediscover what I enjoy doing, what makes me happy now. In this tiny, comforting place, sheltered by the sea and the mountains, I’m slowly learning to live again, one quiet Sunday at a time.
It creeps up on you, Happiness, it taps you on the shoulder and catches you by surprise. Especially when you haven’t seen it for a while, when you’ve forgotten what it looks like, what its company feels like.
At first, it arrives solo, but more often lately, it arrives with its best friend, Hope. That feels good.
It’s been so long since I met Happiness and even longer since Hope came along for the ride; every event, every thought, every moment since that day in March 2016 having being underlaid with a dark, sticky, malodorous carpet of pain and despair.
Much younger, in the 70’s and 80’s I used to meet Happiness on a regular basis, coming around unexpected corners. Hope was also a constant companion (even when young and things were often confusing and difficult).
Anything could trigger a sighting off in those days. You just expected them both to be around regularly.
Cycling through a crisp September morning looking at a clear blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds, being surrounded by friends or family, playing Monopoly on a Saturday with a Vesta Chow Mein dinner expected, setting off on a trip somewhere new with Nan & Grandad, finishing a great book where you knew the author had written a whole series to look forward to. Starting a new job which might just be the one. Ditto boys.
As life went on, wearing into the 90’s they made more infrequent appearances (but somehow more intense for that) such as when we started a new record label, having fun at a friends’ wedding or my own, the after party for ours on the longest day of the year, the birth of our two amazing, unexpected children – Phoebe then Nelson, the discovery of personal development and 100% responsibility, the achievement of business challenges, live speaking gigs, the publishing of a book (then five), a holiday or two. Buying and selling houses, then a new, unexpected (and sometimes most challenging) love slowly blooming.
But they’ve both been awfully, dreadfully, painfully noticeable by their absence since March 12th, 2016 and I really thought they had abandoned me for good. So, Life was to be a series of dreary, trudging steps through to the end, pretending to myself and everyone else that I was fine, I was ok, I was “getting better”.
Then one day in April 2017, on a sunbed in Stoupa, looking out over the sparkling sea, I looked around and there they both were – back together and back with me. Just a glimpse, that day, but a welcome one.
As the sunny days went by, they turned up more and more often, their visits coming closer and closer together, look! there they are again!
Collecting sea glass with Irene in Sunderland, shopping for linen in Marks & Spencer, getting on a plane to Brisbane, looking out over a crowd of eager Aussie Entrepreneurs, a great filet mignon with a fine wine, sitting in the sunny garden of The Bridge in Shoreham with Phoebe, Nelson and Irving, having dinner with Jane in Chipping Norton, floating in the clear blue Greek ocean, gazing out on a Stoupa sunset from a taverna table, turning on Netflix to watch a new, much looked forward to series.
Happiness & Hope, that attractive, elusive pair, holding hands and smiling at me, settling in, getting comfy with keeping me company again.
And now, knowing that they both always come back after a while, after the darkest days, well that is a strengthening thought indeed.
Because I know there’ll be other times when they both go away for a time, I know that of Life now.
But not yet, not yet.
Let me enjoy their company in this moment. Let me savour it and store it up.