Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Boy who Cried Wolf

I recently read this story again, in class, and although I remembered it, it resonated this time. The situation here in Greece cannot be described as good, but for some reason, I have remained calm.
I have spent the last two years, in 3 month cycles of panic and relief, breath holding and deep breathing alternately. Every three months (or so) there is a new threat, a new Eurogroup meeting, the next tranche, the possibility of default, of exit from the Eurozone... I spend several days closing watching and listening to the news, reading articles, thinking of 'what if's'. Yet, so far, we have evaded destruction... we march on.

Disaster might be close, but I have simply run out of emotional energy to invest into it. If it happens we will find a way. If it doesn't, so much the better. Like the villagers in the story, I am not responding to the boy... yet the wolf might be nearer than ever.

In the meantime we are enjoying all that Greece has to offer. Having made a very conscious decision to stay (it seems the best choice for us, personally, professionally and strangely, financially too, at this stage) we have also made a conscious decision to enjoy the best of Greece. And we have!

We have taken to the mountains several times and have extended our excursions further afield,  not simply to the mountain out our front yard (which are still  visited regularly nonetheless). We have made a point of travelling around Greece a bit more - we visited the beautiful area of Kalamata in the Peloponnese and ran in the Natura Reserve. We are also spending more time with friends, enjoying the reliably sunny weather outside at every occasion.

Resting after a morning run on Immitos with friends.

Not forgetting to stop and smell the flowers on the way...

Dusk in the Peloponnese.

We have also decided to do something - not to simply complain about the situation. We set up a community project a series of fun runs for all, which we hope will benefit both the charities we want to help, as well as all the people who join us. We feel that Greece needs more community involvement, more people off the sofas and on the road, trying to achieve, however small the contribution or achievement might be.

Finally we have also been racing - May and early June seem to be prime race season in Greece (it then gets too hot it seems). Our first race for the season saw me coming second (unexpectedly and mainly due to luck, I feel) on a short, but steep mountain race on Parnitha. I certainly had fun, especially tumbling down the mountain - at last all this downhill training paid off!

(Thank you to Path Runners for this picture!)

Unfortunately with all the racing, training (and standing up at work all day) I seem to have picked up a little niggle. So, more swimming and cycling from now on - maybe look at another tri towards the end of the season? That is, if Greece it still standing after the upcoming elections...

Monday, 19 March 2012

Running on snow

Both an actual reality, as well as an allegory for what life has been like lately...

We have been running on snow. Literally and figuratively. I often make analogies of life and sport and this one dawned on me after I had been looking at some of the pictures from a run we did a couple of weeks ago. It was a wonderfully sunny day, maybe the first of spring, and we decided to go and run on Parnitha for the day. First we climbed the nearly vertical mountain, step by step, lungs screaming and legs burning.

Then we reached the more level part of the mountain and were surprised to see there was still snow there (rookies!). I was wearing my favourite running shoes, my inov8 195's, a great pair of shoes, but made for road and certainly not for compacted and iced-over snow. We started running, at first avoiding the snow, then the further up we went there were fewer and fewer parts not covered.

Soon the whole trail was covered and the choice was simple - keep to the footsteps in front of you, but fear slipping on the compacted snow, or go onto virgin snow and risk occasionally sinking up to your thigh.

Life has been a bit like that too. We have been running up the mountain on snow. 2011 was a tough, tough year in every sense of the word. It left us winded and tired, deflated and unsure of where to go from there. But life is relentless and you can only go forward. After the steep uphill that was last year, we have now hit the plateau.

2012 has started well and is certainly easier than last year. It is however, covered in snow. We are taking tentative steps, unsure of what we'll find. Greece is in crisis. Not a theoretical one, but the kind of crisis that has left people on the streets, that has children fainting in class from not having eaten for days, that sees friends losing their jobs, relatives unpaid for months, pensions disappearing, cold houses in a long, long winter.

We have been moving forward, yet looking down. Wary of the holes and the icy parts. Having to make choices of whether we stay on the path or diverge from it. Careful of hidden traps and moving towards something we don't know much about.

But, like running in snow last weekend, we have actually been in a position to enjoy it a bit more. It can be tough, but we've had two really difficult years and we know that we can do this. We've been through worse and have come through. We have each other for balance and we can pick each other up. And like that, we are getting into our stride, both figuratively and literally and enjoying the route.

Not bad, for the first day of spring!

Saturday, 1 October 2011


Life has a way to keep you on your toes, I've been finding out increasingly. Just when you think that everything's good, you are reminded that at the end of the day we have but an illusion of control over what happens.
I realise that not everyone thinks like that. I also realise that I used to be one of those people who thought they were in control of their lives and destinies. I have been proven wrong.
If nothing else, life has a sense of humour. It is deeply ironic in so many ways.
My last post about happiness was followed by a very difficult month of dreams and hopes crushed. Another pregnancy, another loss, followed by complications, hospitals, endless blood tests. Still not out of that and wondering if I will ever be.
But as we battled with that we are also faced with the harsh reality of a country in crisis. The financial crisis has finally affected us. Our salaries have been cut, so that we can carry the burden of debt along with all our fellow salaries employees and pensioners. VAT has continued to rise and now even food has a 23% stamp on it.
Food bills have risen enormously. Heating oil has become prohibitive, heralding a difficult winter. Rising taxation means the paycheck at the end of the month has seen a decrease. Family members are losing their jobs, some others have been unpaid for months. My mother's pension - something she worked for for almost 40 years, has been reduced repeatedly.
And on top of that the government keeps sending emergency taxation bills. And emergency bills for the unemployed. And, as if that wasn't enough, emergency property taxation which is attached to our electricity bill and if we don't (can't) pay we get our electricity cut!
And yet, the untouchables, those who do not declare, those who have their money in Swiss bank accounts, those who routinely cheat the system, once more get away scot free. (Which by the way is an Old English word meaning exempt form royal tax, how apt!) How frustrating is that! How maddening to live in a country where only some have to pay, the ones who have always paid!
We are not sure where this is going. We are not sure how much of it we can endure. We have built a life here that is wonderful - we have a nice house, jobs we enjoy, freedom to walk our dogs on the mountain, to play tennis on a municipal court on a beautiful Friday night, to run and cycle on the mountain. We have the luxury to wake up to sunshine every day, to sit out for dinner in our garden well into autumn, to look at the sea from our kitchen window and the mountains from our bathroom. But where do you draw the line? When do you decide that you cannot go on in this situation, pack and leave?
These are not rhetorical questions, they are questions we have been asking ourselves every day. Answers much appreciated :)

Sunday, 31 July 2011

A new kind of happiness

It feels like we have finally come out of a very long, very dark period. It included illness and death, forest fires, several house moves, unemployment and financial troubles, miscarriage, pain and injury. And yet we have come out.

I have to be honest: there were times in that period when I really did think that life was never going to be fun again. I had lost all hope that "things would work out" and in fact I would get angry when people said that to me. The truth is, and we have found that the hard way, that things don't always work out in life. Unfortunately you don't always get what you deserve, or have worked hard for. That is the lesson and the strength I gained from the last two years.

And a new kind of happiness. The sun is shining brighter than it ever has before. Small things don't matter, yet they give me huge amounts of happiness. D and I are finally enjoying ourselves, the summer, Greece. We have started doing races again. We have been on holiday. We are infused with energy and creativity.

At the moment we are channelling this energy into fixing our house. My dad built it (took him 13 years) and has unfortunately not been repaired for the last 10+ years. We are scrubbing, sanding, coating, painting and cleaning away.

In our spare time we walk our dogs, run races, meet friends and enjoy each other's company. Life is good!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

"Whatever you do...

...don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s."

I have felt old lately. Not physically, as I have in fact started running again after my 12 weeks of inactivity. I feel mentally old and tired. I feel I have become wiser in some ways, but mostly I have lost the optimism that youth is synonymous with.

I have lost hope in what everyone around me seems to keep saying: "everything will turn out OK". Well, I don't believe that anymore. Life in the last couple of years has shown me that often everything does NOT turn out OK. There is simply no reason why things will. Life is simply not fair, you do not get what you deserve. Or rather you might or might not get what you deserve. I knew it, I guess we all do, but lately I have felt it really deeply.

There is a hollowness inside me and I have been carrying a weight with me. My thoughts have been on the nature of life a lot, and I have been discussing it with those close to me. It's hard to explain it, I guess, but I feel it deeply.

The revelation in all of the above is this: even when life is tough, even when there is loss of hope, there can be pleasure in life. Even in my darkest moments life can be funny, happy, warm. Even in the long and hard build up to my dad's death, even then we had laughs. I cherish those moments. Even after the loss of our baby, even then we had love and warmth.

And that is the miracle of life, even in its darkest moments its way preferable to the alternative.


The title really touched me when I read it [or I guess heard it, it's from Baz Luhrmann Lyrics - Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)]. As people we naturally do both. But truth is, life throws all sorts of stuff at us and, really, we have little choice in it. Our only choice is in our reaction. I plough ahead into the future! It's spring time!

Thursday, 14 April 2011


I have been silent for the last month or so, no news of my training or plans to race. It's because for the last 2 months and a bit I had been pregnant. We were expecting little baby B in early November of this year and both D and I, though a little surprised, were very excited. It took us a few weeks to adjust to the idea, but making space in your life for a little one seems so natural and we started enjoying it.

When we went for a routine scan last Monday, though, our plans abruptly stopped. The heartbeat that had been there the week before was no longer there. The silence was deafening - and the longer it went on, the more I wanted it to stop. We were told that we had lost the baby, it had died in the womb a few days before. I had suffered what is commonly called a "silent" or missed miscarriage - one when the baby dies, but the body does not expel it.

Miscarriages are so very common, 1 in 5 pregnancies ends like that. Yet no one ever seems to talk about them. Women are encouraged to keep their pregnancies quiet until after the 12 week mark, when miscarriage rates reduce dramatically and don't often talk about a pregnancy loss. Miscarriage is taboo, yet so very common and so very sad. And it seems, so very isolating too.

Why the silence? It is now widely accepted that it's a chance event, not caused by something that the mother did or didn't do (with a few exceptions like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption... and maybe bungee jumping). It is also a time when a woman needs support, instead of having to lie to those around her, pretending all is fine.

Well, I resent this silence and I break it. As we try and get back to normal I want to acknowledge what has happened to us, not fishing for sympathy but merely wanting to share this. To let anyone out there who has been through this, or will go through this, that yes, it is a sad time, yes, it is the end of a life and a dream. But it is only a hurdle on the way. My life goes on, and as with other difficulties, I will get stronger.

I don't feel stronger yet. Partly because physically I am in a bad way. A combination of blood loss and GA, as well as my body adjusting after a pregnancy, I have been very tired and with a very low blood pressure of 90/50. I am eating and drinking well in an effort to bring my blood volume up again.

So... can't quite resume training yet. But, believe me, I will be back to training and I will plan some races for this summer. And maybe I will traing for the Athens Marathon in November - and run it in memory of what wasn't to be.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A year on

I have had an enforced break from training lately. Having been sick on and off for the last 6 weeks has been frustrating, more than anything, but has given me time to do other things, which was not bad.
It hasn't been a complete break - I have had a few runs with the dogs (including one in a howling storm), I have run with the cross country class at school (hardly an endurance run, but loads of fun nonetheless) and have had some long walks on the mountain. No cycling though (weather has been miserable too!) or swimming.
This break from training aside, D and I had our first holiday pretty much since last year. It felt like a real break, we had a great time and absolutely fell in love with Rome. We were only there for 2 days, but really took the city in, walked around, smelled, tasted and enjoyed Rome so much. It was my first city-break holiday (I am more of an active holiday person, as might have been made clear on this blog) but I would go again in a heartbeat!

Back in Athens I had a visit from J - we had such a lovely time, helped along by beautiful sunny weather - spring is finally here! J is getting ready for a Marathon, her first and has made an amazing commitment. It is an inspiration. As was my other friend, M, running her first 10k race (on pure guts it seemed, as much of her training had been sabotaged by illness)! All in all I was a very proud friend last weekend and didn't mind being support group one bit!

It has also been a year from that Saturday last spring when I lost my dad. I miss him every day, he is with me in everything I do, but the pain has softened a bit. I feel lucky I had such a dad and his life and death is an inspiration to me to live my life to the full. I am certain he would still be very proud of me.