• dianacarteur

THE BIG BLACK HOLE

THE BIG BLACK HOLE



I could tell you so many stories about Greece, and, bit by bit I will, but for now I feel I should move on a little and continue my own story.

Whilst life on a Greek Island can be absolutely delightful, it can also be very, very difficult. Things that are so simple in your own country, where everyone speaks your language and your support network is there when times are tough, become like immovable mountains in lands afar. Struggling for money is difficult in any country, but, on a Greek Island which is struggling itself due to the World Financial Crisis, it becomes absolutely overwhelming. By 2012 the effects of the crisis had really hit home in Eressos. I had managed to plough my way through the winter (with the very kind help of a dear friend who had let me house sit her warm, dry stone house in the winter village, bills all paid!) I had managed to generate odd bits of work also, but these were always heavy manual tasks such as garden renovation or rubbish clearance and I, was after all, almost 60 years old… and the pay for these tasks was never any more than 5 euros an hour, sometimes even less!

At last Spring came and I moved back to my own little shack on the Kampos, loading up my poor little car with a series of black sacks filled with my possessions and of course, my beloved art equipment. Physically I was very weak, I had suffered with dental problems galore and had to spend precious money on tooth extractions. I had also managed to crack a rib as a result of a terrible chest infection. Last but not least, I had problems of a more sensitive nature in the nether regions which caused me to lose a lot of blood on a daily basis. Things were not as they should be… Mentally, I was also very low, there were times when deep depression threatened to take over my mind completely and, had it not been for a few kind people, I may not have survived that year.

Nevertheless, I marched forward in May, with my paintings in my arms and my equipment in its boxes and sat alongside my beloved Zorba the Buddha and another craftswoman, Yolanda to see what Summer would bring. Somehow, despite my ill health, I managed to paint and sell over 230 paintings in that season. Incredible and, yes, I have to say it, very exciting. There were people who came back to The Buddha Bar, just to see me and there were others who came for the food and ambience, but bought from me as well! By the time August arrived I was absolutely exhausted, mentally and physically, but I had enough money to keep me through the Winter, if I was careful. At the end of one long and very hot day, I was talking to a customer about a painting that she had commissioned and suddenly, my eyesight failed. Everything went black in both eyes and then a series of zigzags appeared. I was terrified, but struggled on, not wanting to tell the client. Slowly, the sight returned in one eye, but in my left eye a huge black hole had appeared in the centre. The worst had happened, I could hardly see anything through that eye at all…. I’m not sure how I did it, but I managed to pack up my things, clear my table and say my goodbyes and then DROVE HOME!!! I slept for almost ten hours that night and had not even bothered to eat. I think it was my body’s way of protecting itself.

At this point, I wish I could tell you that I woke in the morning and all was well, but that was not the case. I won’t bore you with details, but a trip to a Greek Eye Specialist determined that I had a large hole in the retina of my left eye, through which I could see nothing and that my right eye had a thick cataract growing over it, which would bit by bit obscure my vision completely. Said Specialist, who was incidentally very nice and had all the up to the minute equipment, prescribed rest, no stress and a quiet life…. He said that, in time, the hole may repair itself giving me some vision back, but left me in no doubt that my present life style would not help my condition.

For several months I had to rest completely. Luckily, I had enough money to see me through the winter and once again, my beautiful friend Gill allowed me to stay in her warm and dry house for nothing. I am a little like a wild animal when I am ill and hide away, not wanting to show myself to the World. There were only a few people who knew of my difficulty and one who came to stay and looked after me at my worst. She was wonderful, as I know I am a terrible patient. The few who knew of my demise wanted me to return to England forthwith, but to what? I had nothing. And I had a life and everything that I owned (admittedly not much) in Eressos. However, return home, I did. It took until March 2013 until I was well enough to travel. I could not drive, but would not return to England without my beautiful old dog Hugo, so, once again, a few wonderful friends rallied round and helped. One drove me and Hugo to the port in Mitilini and accompanied us on the overnight ferry to the mainland, where we were met by another friend who was affectionately known by me as ‘France’. I will call her that, as I am not sure whether she will like her name mentioned here. France, who was in her late 60s and terrified of ferries, then accompanied me on the 48 hour ferry journey from Greece to Venice and then drove me and Hugo through Italy, France and England, paying for everything but the petrol on the journey. When we arrived at her house in North Harrow, France then allowed me to stay in her spare room until I could get the medical attention I needed and until I could find myself somewhere to live. I had nothing but the clothes I stood up in, a pair of flip flops and a pair of wellington boots and of course, MY ART EQUIPMENT!!

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