Day 49

First let me say that I love it when it’s so warm that you can walk home at twenty to midnight in a sleeveless silk top and not feel the slightest regret at not having brought a jacket.

Sherlock and I walked Dash to his art class and, on the way home, Sherlock once again did his best impression of a well-trained dog with beautiful manners – for about one third of the way. The rest of the way he went back to his usual pattern of either dawdling or doing his best to drag me along the footpath at breakneck speed. Level 2 Chi Kung – Body and Mind Method. MIcrocosmic orbit. Both went well, and the microcosmic orbit was particularly enjoyable.

I was pleasantly surprised when, at 4:30pm, I arrived at my doctor’s – after an afternoon of rushing, a mad dash across London, and a brisk run up two flights of stairs – and my blood pressure was 105 over 68! Very gratifying.

Dinner at Baltic with Nick Curnow, then across to the Young Vic for an amazing production of A Streetcar Named Desire. I was good to see Harry Medawar and meet Nicola Seager Medawar – though slightly confusing to discover that they had the same seats as us – a glitch born out of Harry’s generosity in booking the tickets for me when they were only open to Friends of the Young Vic! It was all resolved and no one had to sit in anyone else’s lap – which was all to the good.

Day 48

Dropped Dash and Katie at their art class just after nine – the cat-herding was more difficult than usual today so we were a little late. It astounds me what a production two intelligent, capable children can make out of having a wash, brushing teeth, and putting some clothes on. Having been left at home yesterday (on account of dogs not being allowed at the funfair) Sherlock was very happy and grateful to be allowed to join us this morning. This translated (briefly!) into some “look at me, I’m a well-behaved doggy and I really belong at Crufts” behaviour, trotting prettily beside me on a slack lead. Back home after dropping the children off, I got on with the Body and Mind Method, Microcosmic Orbit and jade egg practice. The change in focus makes such a difference – Body and Mind Method went really well today – a huge improvement on earlier in the week. And, for the first time, the microcosmic orbit was pleasantly trance-y, I guess all the various breathing, tightening, clenching etc has now become sufficiently routine for the visualisation to get a bit more brain-room .

I got my NZ tax return completed – yay – and started on the next piece of tedious admin. I collected the children from art class, taking Sherlock along so that we could give him a good romp on the Heath on the way home. Foolishly I allowed myself to be persuaded to buy the kids an early dinner at Giraffe on the way home, in spite of the fact that, having Sherlock along, we would have to sit at the outdoor tables. Fortunately there was one table in the shade and, after the regulation amount of faffing about, all of us, including Sherlock, were eventually seated in at least partial shade. We had just ordered, and Sherlock had been provided with a bowl of water, when an elderly couple approached and asked if I would mind if they sat at the next table, one of the ones we had rejected as being in full sun. I couldn’t understand why they were asking – we weren’t using the table they wanted – but then they asked could we move our chairs a bit, a bit more, just a bit more, so that they could sit in the shade – while we baked. Giraffe’s notoriously slow service takes on a whole new meaning when one is roasting alive. The children were slightly stunned when I asked for the bill as soon as the food had been delivered and vetoed all requests for pudding and extra rounds of drinks. I was completely focused on finding some shade – not least because poor old Sherlock doesn’t get to take off his fur coat. It was a relief to get out on the Heath, where at least there was a breeze and Sherlock could run and run with his spaniel’s ear flapping out behind. The part of the Heath near the village was packed, which is a pain when you can’t easily predict who is going to cuddle the dog and whisper sweet nothings in his ear and who is going to start yelling “control that brute” or “get him away from me”. In general young people are more likely to react positively than old people, and light-skinned people are more likely to react positively than dark-skinned people – but there are no guarantees. So, in rather curmudgeonly fashion, I said something like “Hmph, all these people cluttering up our heath.” but Katie immediately came up with a brilliant, if rather self-serving, reframe: “Mummy, I can think of something good about all these people cluttering up the heath. All these people probably buy ice cream, which means the ice cream truck will stay around!”. I was quite impressed with this – a level of understanding which had proved completely beyond people who bought homes and baches in Akaroa, attracted by the lively cafe and restaurant scene, and then decided that they hated the plagues of tourists – completely missing the point that the restaurants and cafes only existed BECAUSE of the tourists!

Arrived home so hot that all I wanted to do was sit in the path of the fan and drink lots of cold water – which provided a perfect opportunity to get my second tedious admin task all sorted and sent away, and then attack the pile of stuff waiting to be filed. For the first time in a couple of years, I really can’t think of any admin-type thing I should be doing. Feels good.

Listening to a radio item on ebola while I did the filing, I took a moment to feel grateful that I no longer have any responsibility for clinical countermeasures.

Day 47

Level 2 Chi Kung – Body and Mind Method. Microcosmic Orbit. Jade egg practice. The Body and Mind Method went much better today – I have been focusing on the bits I find very challenging (not to mention hurt-y) and suddenly thought that it might be a whole lot more helpful to pay attention to the bits where I am aware of improvement every day. Duh!!!

A lovely cruise-y day with the kids. We all slept in and had a leisurely morning before heading to the funfair on Blackheath. A surreal conversation with Dash on the way to the funfair:

me: I’m happy – it’s a lovely day and I am with my two favourite people.
Dash: Your two favourite people?
me: Well, two of my favourite people. Of course Jack and Daddy are my favourites too.
Dash: What about Sherlock?
me: Well, Sherlock isn’t my favourite the way you and Katie and Jack and Daddy are my favourites.
Dash: Why?
me (starting to feel a little on the back foot): I don’t know. I guess because he’s a dog?
Dash (sounding upset): Oh!
me: Do you think that’s bad?
Dash: Yes! That must be why he bites us, because he’s jealous that you don’t love him as much as your other children.
me: What do you think I could do to make Sherlock feel better?
Dash: You could spend some special time with just you and Sherlock.

Dash had a great time on all the rides – Kate was a bit more cautious, which was lovely as Dash got to be the hero-big-brother. By the time we were done with the funfair, there was no wind, so the kids had ice cream and I had cranberry tea while we waited to see if the wind would come up enough to get the kites off the ground. No wind, but Katie was determined, so I got one of the kites out for her and let her find out for herself how exhausting it is to fly a kite when there is no wind. Eventually even Katie had had enough and we took the long way home across the Heath. Katie then splashed about in the pool for an hour while I “supervised” from a prone position on the trampoline. Spent a lovely hour weeding, deadheading and watering in the cool of the evening, with a beautiful sunset lighting up the sky, then had some alone-time with Sherlock. The things we do for love!

Day 46

Cool with light rain this morning, brightening into another lovely day. Dropped Kate and Dash at art class. Level 2 Chi Kung – Body and Mind Method (very difficult today – had to remind myself that Lift Chi Up once felt difficult and is now as comfortable as a pair of old slippers). Microcosmic orbit. Jade egg practice. Extreme dog walking.

Have been feeling a strong urge to up-sticks and move to Crete (Nick could work remotely, I could grow figs and write a light-hearted “life in Crete” column for The Guardian) so I thought I’d better do something to remind myself of why I like living here! I got the NZ tax return underway, then took Sherlock with me when I went to collect the kids and we all went for a long walk on the heath. There were some people flying kites, including one guy kite-buggying, which looked amazing. We talked to him when he paused for a bit and I asked how long he had been doing it to get that good. He said 21 years and that he sometimes gives lessons on the heath but that I would probably be better to learn on holiday on a nice flat stretch of beach somewhere. I agreed that I would probably prefer to try it somewhere where all the school-gate mummies aren’t going to see me!

When Sherlock was a bit younger, a 45 minute walk was enough to completely tire him out. Today I walked him for over 3 hours altogether and he was almost as lively at the end as at the start. I wish I could say the same!

Day 45

Another gorgeous day. Level 2 Chi Kung – Body and Mind Method (some parts definitely more difficult in bare feet). Microcosmic orbit. Jade egg practice. Katie’s party. Relax-tivity (strolling and talking) with Nick Curnow.

As of yesterday we had had only one positive response to the party invitations, from Felix and his parents. Katie was a bit disappointed: ‘Oh, so it will be more of a play-date than a party” but then did an instant reframe ‘but luckily Felix is the most fun, so having him will be like having a whole bunch of children”. We moved some of the outdoor furniture down to the shady area by the pool and trampoline and prepared trays of drinks and nibbles. Katie and Felix hurtled from pool to trampoline and back, occasionally cruising for party food en route, while we chatted with Felix’s parents, who seem very nice, drank Cloudy Bay and nibbled on a perfectly ripe camembert and a bowl of strawberries. In due course Katie whispered to me that she thought it was time for cake and very carefully and solemnly cut slices and served everyone. One of the benefits of a Montessori education is that she takes hostessing very seriously and does it beautifully!

Tomorrow I will suggest to Katie that if next time she involves me in planning the party from the start, I might be able to use my grown-up-type wiles to help her pick a date when more people can come.

Day 44

A hot summer’s day in beautiful Blackheath. Level 2 Chi Kung – Body and Mind Method. Microcosmic orbit. Jade egg practice. Tidying, cooking, fruit and veg market. Very hot so happy to sit in the shade at the back of the garden supervising Katie in the inflatable pool. It is a bit far from the house this year for her to go in without someone supervising, so we have put an old garden seat down there so that the supervising adult can sit and read. However Katie would happily stay in the pool for hours and it wasn’t long before I was wishing that the seat was a bit more comfy… Then it occurred to me that I could supervise just as easily from a recumbent position on the trampoline … Very relaxing.


After a week away, I am now in that stage of re-entry to family life where all three children are happiest when in direct physical contact with my body, occupying the majority of my attention, or both. It can get a bit wearing and at the same time it is like swimming in love.

Day 43

Woke up feeling great. Level 2 Chi Kung, body and mind method. Packing. Met Wendy, Janine and Maria Noone at reception. No Robyn. Wait. Wait. Wait. Feeling decidedly less great.  Desire for coffee/breakfast > urge to conform to social niceties: mass decamp to cafe! Nice breakfast and good conversation. Bit concerned about ability to find Robyn since have only the vaguest idea where she is staying, don’t have her mobile number, can’t remember her last name … Quick visit to ATM to ensure I have enough Euros to pay for whole cab fare rather than half. Card doesn’t work. Try another card. Works. Phew! Back to hotel. Taxi driver arrives early and says that the road is going to be closed for an hour to allow some kind of military troop movement to take place and we need to get through before it closes. Explain that we are meant to be collecting someone else, who might be staying somewhere called Hotel Mekos or Nekos. He says there is a Hotel Neos. Let’s try that. Robyn found. Phew! Airport. Bag drop. Security. No, can’t go through security until there is a gate number. No gate. No gate. No gate. Gelato. No gate. No gate. Nice conversation with Nick Curnow. Gate 11! Security for gates 1 to 7: no queue. Security for gates 8 to 12: long queue. Stationary. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. “Would the last passenger for flight 5462 to London Gatwick please report to gate 11 immediately.” Crap. Escorted to front of queue, through security, to plane. Phew! Take off. Turbulence. Thunderstorm over Gatwick. Holding pattern. Landing. Passport control. Baggage claim. Nothing to declare (except my genius – channelling Oscar Wilde!). No train for half an hour. Cafe Nero. Latte please. Espresso machine broken 🙁 . Train. London Bridge – drag suitcase off train, straight into 3 inch deep puddle. Train. Blackheath. Drag mysteriously heavy suitcase up hill. Home. Hug. Hug. Hug. Special happy-anniversary-for-yesterday hug. Sherlock going crazy. Unpacking. Snuggling on sofa. Children’s bed time. A chapter of The Little White Horse. Four posts to my bed …

Snuggling on sofa with husband. East, West, home’s best…

Day 42

Last day of Integration and 27th anniversary of Nick and I getting together. Kept my eyes open and had no problem keeping upright during level 2 Chi Kung. Attempted to shop for presents for Nick and the kids but discovered that pretty much everything is closed until 11 or so. Interesting discussion of telomerase and the various ways in which one might generate it. Lift Chi Up, Pour Chi Down. Very interesting Shamanic journey to the higher realm. I felt very honoured when it turned out that I had appeared as a guide in someone else’s Shamanic journey – I had been under the impression that one needed to be dead already to take that role! Then the highlight of the course when Richard demonstrated Connie Rae Andreas’ new Wholeness Process. Very special. Looking forward to going home to Nick and the children tomorrow but sad to leave beautiful Matala and even my bare little room. Looking forward to experiencing the course again next year as an assistant.

Day 41

Woke early and went down to the beach for a paddle and to have a look for the physical version of the stone from yesterday’s Shamanic Journeying. Didn’t find it but I think I now know where I need to go to get it. Feeling very happy and energised. Back in time for Chi Kung. Couldn’t understand why I was repeatedly falling over during the stand-on-one-foot bit, since I did it perfectly easily yesterday – then I realised that today was the first time I have tried it with my eyes closed. Back in my room, I ran through that bit of the process with my eyes open, just to reassure myself, and had no problems staying upright. Clearly I balance largely with my eyes! Next up was Initiation, where Richard passes on chi from Master Mantak Chia. The process itself was nothing much – took about 6 minutes and was mildly disconcerting. In terms of result, I’m not sure what I was expecting – something between neutral and a mild positive buzz I guess. I was definitely not expecting the overwhelming, profound, formless sadness which arose immediately after the process and remained for most of the day. Iron state control is useful – but of course can’t be maintained during processes like The Inner Smile.

Managed to buy and deliver my ‘secret Santa’ gift without revealing my identity – not easy in a town this small.

Next up was Kundalini Meditation. We shook for 15 minutes, danced for 15 minutes (old friends will be pleased to hear that I largely resisted the temptation to channel the Caddyshack gopher!), sat for 15 minutes and lay on the floor for 15 minutes. I would have been inclined to attribute my underwhelming results (an intense tickling sensation as if ants were crawling over the sole of my right foot, and a lessening of the slight pain in my lower back) to my initial state, but none of the other participants were exactly reporting fireworks. Finished the day with a near-death experience (more fun than it sounds!). Lovely post-dinner relax-tivity (strolling and talking) with Maria Noone. We stopped on the way home for a coffee and decided to try ouzo (since we’re in Greece and all). We were rather shocked at the generosity of the measure:

Maria (eyeing the large tumbler of cloudy liquid): what do you suppose they mixed it with?

Me: more ouzo?