Sink or swim?

Today feels like I’m coming up for air after a long stretch underwater. It’s surprising how a crisis can throw everything else you’ve been worrying about into a vague blur. A bit like swimming under water, you can see the bottom of the pool and random arms and legs of other swimmers bubble past without much meaning. All you can hear is the sound of your own breathing. It’s a whole other world.

I went swimming in a pool for the first time in months this week and was happy that I hadn’t forgotten how to do front crawl. Amazingly it even felt quite natural and I didn’t arrive at the end of the pool desperate for air. I was still a lot slower than my current swim buddy – who is significantly younger. Ploughing up and down the pool gave me time to reflect on the last couple of weeks and the sound of my own breath in and out reminded me of sitting beside a hospital bed and watching my son breathe. He had to think about breathing, something most of us rarely do. At points he was using his whole body to help him draw in air. It was painful to watch.

This particular family crisis is over for now. I’m no longer lying awake in bed wondering if my son will make it through the night and praying for him to have the strength to go on breathing. I can look back with a grateful heart, that the tears and the fears – spoken and unspoken – are now consigned to a flashback or occasional nightmare. And I’m a believer in the power of prayer. The prayers and support of so many friends and family were a comfort for our family as we found ourselves in a very dark and scary place for a few days.

My perspective on life earlier this month felt a bit like swimming under water and coming up for air. Now I’m wondering if it’s the other way round. Do I live my life underwater, looking at the world through misty goggles, when I should be getting my head above water? Facing issues of life and death puts things into sharp focus – issues that were a worry become insignificant compared with the reality that is this moment.

snorkle

I’ve heard someone say we should make each day count because we never know what the next day will bring. Perhaps it’s time for a change in perspective. Time to embark on that adventure we’ve talked about, but never actually set off on… time to make the most of every moment of every day.

I want to breathe it all in because it’s God that gives me breath and that breath is life.

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ghost town with attitude

I don’t want to spread alarm, but yesterday I came face to face with part of the island’s underground army…
After a pleasant stroll along the cliff tops, we decided to take a peek at what would normally be a very busy tourist beach, lined with expensive hotels. Driving down through the network of shops and apartments towards the sea front, we began to feel like we were heading into a Wild West ghost town. What had been buzzing cafes and restaurants, now had their curtains drawn and instead of an array of tourist shops selling anything from buckets, spades and blow up rings to shell jewellery and ‘hand-made’ Cyprus pottery, the windows were plastered with paper and the stalls outside had disappeared. The pavements were empty as well and every house and apartment in all shapes and sizes appeared to have its shutters down or blinds pulled. The streets were dusty, there were no other cars and the sky was slightly overcast, while remnants of newspaper and packaging blew across the road. The atmosphere was eerie. And then we spotted them…

First there was one, slinking slowly across the road in front of us, then another sat watchfully on a wall, its eyes following the car as we passed. A glance to the left and two more were heading down a side road…the streets were filled with cats. As we turned a corner, one particularly huge ginger beast, that looked more like a lion than a cat, crossed the road and strode menacingly towards a raised area outside an empty shop. The cats appeared completely at home and had now become the main residents of the area. They owned this place and no-one could challenge them – at least that’s how it felt. Instead of the mangy underfed specimens we had seen in the summer scuttling between restaurant tables for food, these cats were large and well fed, confidently patrolling their home territory.

As we drew into the empty car park, surrounded by buildings, a wide path between two hotels was all that separated us from the beach. But before reaching to open the car doors we both hesitated and glanced around. They were here too and not just one…there was a tortoiseshell sentry sat boldly upright at the top of the path and his bright green eyes were watching us. In the top corner of the car park another pair, a ginger and a white and tabby cat, were pacing. It certainly felt like an organised group patrolling their area. We decided to take our chances and boldly headed down to the sea, hoping to leave the cats behind. As we turned left along the decking walk beside the sea, there was no-one to be seen. All the umbrellas and chairs had been removed from the hotel grass and a solitary line of white sun beds had been left in a row on the beach, where a lone waiter was settling them in line. The sea looked a bit more English, more grey than blue, with just two swimmers a few metres out, their heads bobbing in the water.

Suddenly I spotted a movement on my left and very large tabby cat appeared on the walkway striding towards us. We hesitated…but it was just a cat, after all. Further ahead two more were munching on something on the slope leading down to the beach, there was another weaving its way in amongst the deck chairs as it ‘patrolled’ the beach. We were surrounded. It felt like a ‘Dr Who’ set where cats had taken over the world and the humans were just their staff. I let out a sort of nervous laugh, what harm could they do, they were only cats? Then as a very well fed black and white specimen began approaching, I stepped away quickly. They had a knack of making us feel uncomfortable, as if they were saying – “What are you doing here off season?”

Time to move on. After a quick swim, during which I fretted about cats running off with my shoes and towel, or worse the car keys, we headed back to ‘cat car park’. We were escorted back up the path to the car by another couple of sentries, who sniffed at the tyres and watched us change. Glancing back as we sped off in the direction of normal civilisation, I could see them crouched at the top of the path again. There were no waves goodbye, they were just watching and waiting. I don’t know what they were waiting for, but I had a feeling they knew something we didn’t. Could it be someone was coming with food, or are they in fact busy planning an invasion right across the island? Watch this space for updates.