Wednesday, 29 August 2012

God of the Sea

This is the beach where Ulysses was washed up after his battles with god of the sea Poseidon.  Ulysses, hair in damp straggles, naked and unconscious on the sand, was revived by Naussica, daughter of the King of the Phaeacians.  So wrote Homer.  And as a reminder there’s the Naussica Taverna full of sweating and Homer reading diners staring down at me from the cliff edge.

Naussica – in Greek her name translates as burner of ships.  But out in the bay there are nothing but peddalos and heat. 

The beach itself in the parts that aren’t forever British is entirely Russian. They don’t look like us.  The men have bellies that protrude but don’t flop.  They wear tight and tiny bri-nylon swimming trunks, just like ones I used to have in 1977.   They sprawl across the Thompson Holiday loungers smoking their Russian cigarettes.  They don’t read.  They play cards, they drink. They lunge at the sea and emerge bronzed and dripping.  A woman with a tattooed Venus on the half shell climbing her belly.  A man with a bear growling up his.

I’ve gone to Greece with my prednisolone packed into both my check-in and hand luggage and with an extra packet in my pocket just in case.  The polymyalgia bubbles under.  The treatment is working.  No more proximate muscles like rusted slabs aching like they were trying to jump me to Mars.  Instead I have my new fellow traveller, the sly and slippery synovial cyst.

This one sits somewhere in my lower spine and can only really be subdued by high-strength co-codamol supplemented by Naproxen, a sort of super ibuprofen on speed.  Sounds good on paper but in practise it just makes you numb.  A better cure turns out to be alcohol which relaxes things enough to ease the agony.  We brought gin out bubble-wrapped in Sue’s suitcase and the local beer isn’t that expensive so things should be good.

Out walking I can feel it, Mr Synovial, pressing the sciatic nerve and making my lower leg feel like it’s got a cold chisel in its centre moving up and down.  With PMR you could run a bit and the pain would go.  With this one you have either drink or lie down.  And as the one often leads to the other, I find myself doing both.

In Corfu Town – Kerkyra –  after a long sit in a caf√© opposite the truncated British cricket pitch we visit the Church of Saint Spyridon.  His remains are here in a gilded box, closed today but still touchable.  A line of Greeks take turns to kiss the place where his feet might be.  On high days they take him out and parade him through the streets.  He’s a preserver and a fixer.  Saint of salvation and health.

A women next to me scribbles something in Greek onto a piece of paper and puts it in one of the saint’s waiting bowls.  There’s a whole stack of other slips there.  They tower.  Prayers, pleas for help.  Worth a go I decide.  Help me, I write, Saint Spy, see if you can do something about this spine of mine.  I leave the slip unsigned.  Saint Spyridon will know who put it there.

I follow up this uncharacteristic act by buying a six inch candle from a box near the door.  I’m heading for the spot just outside where similar candles of supplication have been stuffed into a pit of sand and melted wax.  They waver and flame.  They look the Orthodox part.  Behind me an entire extended Greek family are emerging from the Church.  They carry candles too, all nine of them, women in black, children in trainers, men in suits.  The difference is that while my candle is 6” long theirs are five feet and thicker than your leg.   Aflame like Thor rockets they dwarf my miniature squib.  Beijing Olympic fireworks beside my November the fifth. Next to the candle dump is an icon depicting the great man in his golden beatitude.  The family take turns to kiss the image.  At this level of investment they are bound to get whatever it is they want.

Me?  Not a hope.

But then again it’s now a week later and I’m back home in the drizzle again, Saint Spyridon  a sunny memory.   The Cyst is still there but, amazingly, it is quiet.  No flares, no return of the lower leg cold chisel and no repeat of the shaking electric razzle scream of a pain I was getting up and down my right leg just before I went.   And I haven’t taken a naproxen since last month. 

Good boy Spyridon.  I'll be back.


  1. ‎...such a damn good piece of writing, thank you... David E Oprava

  2. Hi Peter it's Heather Fish. I echo the above comment and am very glad to hear of your wonderful improvements. Just wanted to bring MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) to your attention if it hasn't already wafted by your consciousness. There have been studies conducted on its effects on Fibromyalgia and it is also used extensively in pain management. New 8 week course on Thursday evenings starting in Cardiff Buddhist Centre in September. Run by Vishvapani who does the Buddhist bits for 'Thought for the Day'. It's amazing stuff with gazillions of scientific studies done over 30 years on this secular, clinical application of the ancient practice. Let me know if you're interested. I'm in the throes of studying it through personal practice and for an academic course we're developing related to the workplace. With love x