They say it comes in 3s…Masquerade, malaria, mortality.

If we have learnt anything at all from this Covid era, it is that nothing at all should be taken for granted. So many freedoms, rhymes and rhythms of our lives have been disrupted, upended and in some cases, entirely denied.

Yet when things change in a severe way within a matter of hours, I believe the human nature worldwide is that of a state of shock…..

Last weekend of February 2021, I found myself with plans being changed, amended, and returned to. Leading me to be an attendee of the Lagos Yacht Club 88th anniversary dinner dance. However, with all the back n forth, it seems I missed the obvious play on words from the invite, and found myself as the only member wearing a ‘real’ mask, whilst everyone else (until they reached their bubbles), wore their face masks with ease.

Anyway, it turned out that this was the least of my concerns.

Some hours after leaving, it was noted that my body was absolutely burning hot – my skin felt like lava to touch. Yet I was lying there feeling utterly freezing, like I had been trapped inside an ice cave….

As the weekend continued, my temperature soared and soared, my energy went down and down, and my ability to move even my fingertips disappeared. Every single bone in my body felt like it was broken; such pain that I have no words to describe it. I was sweating whilst uncontrollably shaking. I was unable to walk yet very much needed to get to the bathroom regularly. Lifting my water bottle felt akin to the power needed as a heavy weight lifter. I was utterly and entirely poleaxed.

By Sunday, I knew I was in a bad way. I had also eaten nothing since Friday. My clinic is closed at weekends and I really didn’t feel able to manage the main hospital in the state I was in, plus with the added worry of covid concerns. So I put my faith in the universe and medicated myself to get through the night and into the early hours of Monday morning. Upon arrival at the clinic, the fears rose. Though so did my level of illness, so in fact I began to lose my sense of conscious awareness and just writhed in pain and vomit instead (not the best experience of my life, violent sickness whilst still wearing a face mask, followed by being on my knees and head deep in the doctor’s refuse bin). My blood pressure was dangerously low and I felt like I no longer had control over any part of my communicative abilities nor my body. Everything hurt, my head span, my body shook like a leaf, and I was totally out of it.

I was told I had severe malaria, sepsis throughout my entire blood system, and suspected appencitis. That I very much needed to be admitted and that the hospital was waiting for me. I made the decision to get there by my own means of transport, as I have been in ambulances here before and it takes an eternity to get through the congested traffic whilst in one. However, I felt mortified when, as we drove across the islands, I vomited out of the window, down the side of the car, and into the onwards traffic. (Sorry motor cyclists and pedestrians).

The next 4 days feel like a total blur, aside from one particularly torturous day when the vomiting could not be stemmed, nor my fever, and despite only having an intake of water, it basically didn’t stop for over 12 hours. My throat became scratched, my chest very sore, my whole system entirely drained and empty. I felt like death warmed up.

I was in a 3 bed room, wherein one of the other patients had no less than 12 visitors, all of whom stayed the entire night and opted to talk at their top of their voices throughout. Needless to say, it wasn’t the restoration tonic needed.

By Thursday, (I think), I was able to move to a private room. Visitors began rolling in and I continued to be deathly ill, though more and more soothed by the incredible acts of love given. I received a hanging plant, bouquets of flowers, get well soon cards, books, chocolates, biscuits, shea butter, people’s time and love, and a tremendous amount of comfort.

That said, I still wasnt’ really comprehending how very sick I was, in the sense of recovery rate and risk factors (for example, Sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) is the immune system’s overreaction to an infection or injury. Normally our immune system fights infection – but sometimes, for reasons we don’t yet understand, it attacks our body’s own organs and tissues. If not treated immediately, sepsis can result in organ failure and death. Not only that, 5 people die with sepsis every hour in the UK. I AM BEYOND THANKFUL, GRATEFUL, OVERAWED, DEEPLY APPRECIATIVE….AND ON AND ON. I did not know any of this until after the fact, and I thank the heavens for this.

All of the loved ones that kept coming, knowing that I could barely hold my phone let alone take calls or reply to messages, kept me from ever realising this. As well as how severe the malaria was too of course, with the added complexity that I definitely had appendicitis and with my health status, surgery had to wait.

It was on my 7th day that this was able to happen, though still not without some additional drama. As I was wheeled down to the operating area, I became in the middle of an argument between the ward and theatre staff, all the whilst acting as if I wasn’t there and was both deaf and blind to what was happening. The context was that they hadn’t yet sent for me and who do you think you are….bla bla bla. My incredibly low heart rate and blood pressure couldn’t take it well. I began feeling violated, dizzy, fully out of control and very, very scared. By the time a nurse returned to wheel me in, I found adrenaline-fuelled strength, seemingly levitating out of the wheelchair, and I carried myself back to the ward. Shouting back at them at the same time asking if they were mad? If this was their normal protocol, to make a very ill patient who was about to undergo strong anaethesia, (I was having an epidural), to feel the entire works of full body and mind stress and anxiety? In no uncertain terms, I made it very clear they were not cutting me up under that risk level.

The surgeon came into my room shortly after, wherein I politely but undeniably firmly, requested him to leave me alone. He was clearly shocked and affronted. And I was in a total state. Perhaps I have never felt so scared before.

After speaking with the head of the hospital and some loved ones, I was able to find resolve and calmness once again, though I felt even more like I had been hit by a truck. There really did not feel like I had much left in me.

I was wheeled down once again for the operation and I experienced the highly uncomfortable and painful application of the epidural. I was awake for the whole procedure, but I feel I astral-travelled after some time as I have little to no memory of the passing of time.

I ended up having another 7 days in hospital post surgery, after developing further infections and having issues with an low red blood count (for me it should be between 4000-11000 and mine was 2000). It seemed to go on and on. Happily they granted me an additional 24 hours of epidural cocktail, as this new pain was amplifying everything. Plus the position of the epidural prongs felt like sharp nails in my back. To sit up, I felt like I would be disembowelled and it took more strength than I could muster. I was unable to access the bathroom for personal care for some days, and I felt one hundred percent at the mercy of others. This would have been an easier cross to bear had there been consistency amongst the bedside manners of the staff. Some nights, there would be big arguments between them, one night a patient next door seemed to lose his mind (around 4am) and was making many threats, including towards me, the white woman. The confidence and capability of applying a canulla was also highly varible, resulting in the wearing of 19 different ones over the course of 13 days, yet in total, there were 27 attempts. My veins had all but collapsed by the time that I was discharged. I was bruised everywhere and I felt like a pin cushion.

For each day that I was determined to feel better and get myself home to my refuge, it seemed like something else was testing me. Day 4 post surgery, when I no longer had the epidural, saw me in incredible pain once again, whilst all of my ailments combined together in force. I was given a strong drug via the line and even whilst the flush was taking place, I felt everything go underwater, including the image of the two staff in front of me. My speech slurred, my eyes rolled and I was lost, yet again. I opted not to say anything immediately as I realised I hadn’t eaten yet. And figured that wooziness was just due to that. I ate, (courtesy of a dear friend who had sent in food that I was just about able to stomach at that point) and things got worse. Therefore I buzzed for the nurses and asked for the doctor to be called for. I was denied. So I buzzed and asked again. (There really is nothing like the intensity of being totally at the mercy of others and my mental state has taken some time to recover from a lot of these experiences, let alone the severity of the illness and when I later realised how critical I had actually been). I managed to finally see a doctor who told me I should just sleep it off. I had to press her so hard to get acknowledged and eventually I was given a steroid injection to halt the effects from worsening. By that point however, my left arm had filled with red, hot, sore lines, I felt nauseous beyond belief, and every time I closed my eyes (I kid you not), I became a witness to about 6 video cameo screens of all of the experiences of my life. I saw myself as a 9 year old eating dinner with my grandparents, I saw myself in lessons in secondary school, I saw different relationships, I saw me as a young child falling over. I saw everything all at once and my world turned upside down. I felt like I had sleep paralysis as it was so very hard to re-open my eyes and when I finally managed, I felt seasick and totally out of balance, then my focus would return. But within moments, my eyelids fell and I began seeing everything all over again.

This hallucinogenic trip lasted approximately 3 hours and took me into the early hours of the morning. I felt exhausted from it.

The entire experience started on March 1st and I was finally allowed a discharge 13 days later. However, I still had ongoing infections and I took away with me a true pick n mix of mediation. Since returning home, I have lost 8kg and I have been mostly at home on serious bed rest.

It has to be cited as the most terrifying yet exquisite experience of my life. Never before have I felt two such strong sensations at once – to be so so out of control and under the decisions of other people, and to be so so held by the universe and amazing people from all around the world.

I never ever want to see a hospital again. I never even want to sneeze again. But now, some time after all of this, I am shining. I am released, I am relieved, and I am deeply humbled. Oh, and for now I am also entirely petrified of mosquitos!

Corona Canal Chronicles #5

As August approached, so did the end of my Masters thesis. Hours and days, weeks and months of pure tension in my mind and body were on the precipice of being released. With this, there was the chance to jump overboard for a few days, to enjoy full-time electricity, some kitty love, and access to a hot bath; all of which enabled me to scramble (crawl) over that last hurdle. [Well, almost]. I was delegated cat-sitter, so that I could have the total silence to push through to the final post, whilst my family embarked on a coastal holiday in Anglesey, Wales. Admittedly, I remained confined to the corner of the kitchen as I tip-tapped away on the laptop, so in all sense and purpose I had become accustomed to boat-space and was a fish out of water in the house!

With the luxury of this opportunity, came the luck that I felt able to join for the last few days of the beach trip; such a wonderful thing amidst so much distance and separation with my sister and her family over this time, and when considering all the hardships that people around the world had been facing since the impact of the pandemic.

I had the great fun of taking each of my boys out on the StandUp Paddle board, with my eldest quickly mastering the technique and swiftly paddling off without me! (Particularly pleasing to me rather than him, as I had already begun to turn into an ice-block; will I ever stomach cold shores again?). I also had the chance to go on scooter rides (a first for me, and I admit – I loved it!), climb hills, and have lots of fun hanging out with my beloveds. What a relief from the constant drill I had put myself under during this entire lockdown.

Wales really is a spectacular country and to have time there roaming around felt like a freedom I had not had in quite some time. Typically the weather was changeable, as is known across all of the UK, but this is what helps to make the countries so luscious and vibrant.

Alas, it was just less than 72 hours’ worth of holiday for me, yet worth it’s weight in gold.

Upon returning to the boat, we then had to up the ante on our cruise control. Time was now ticking rapidly for my mum and stepdad, in order for them to make it on time for their pending departure to New Zealand, and there was a lot of water to cross. (A song comes to mind….but I’m going off on a tangent, haha). We now had a matter of weeks to get from Staffordshire to Leicestershire. No easy feat when internet was still required most days, and when we met upon various escapades (as had become the norm), such as conducting a motor boat rescue for a quirky couple on their way down to Evesham! Here and there, we snuck off the boat for a cheeky pint of ale, lavishing the taste that I had missed for so long when back in Lagos.

We passed through gorgeous villages, some sporting UK icons of old (spot the phone box), and scenery to truly take your breath away. It was hard to remember at times, that the entire world was going through a hugely turbulent time, hospitals still over-flowing, people still not knowing when their children could go back to school, or when their work would recommence. Perhaps this is one of the key take-aways from why people such as my mum/stepdad seem to get younger with each day that they live on the canals – you can go looking for the highly populated areas and get wrapped up in all that brings for you (good as well as bad), or you can simplify and discover what was hiding beyond the horizon, (again this isn’t always easy, as reduced social contact and transport opportunities come with their own challenges). However, having some extra time to be able to get involved with cruising, to look out to the sights, to sup up some tasty drinks, and to become a lot more aware of the life I had found myself within…well, it was the right tonic for me. Naturally, often accompanied by the home-brew gin of course hehehe.

Passing across the country also meant being that bit closer to one of my oldest and dearest friends, so I practically jumped for joy when she devised a means to get to us during one of our overnight stops. The boys had visited my folks previously, so they were excited to come on board again, albeit whilst we did our best to socially distance. Their favourite part of it all however, was not quite as appealing to us adults! (They discovered the boat phone, allowing the captain to call down to those in the other end of the boat….needless to say there was a LOT of calls made that afternoon).

We were lucky enough to moor up in one final spot (just about) in reach of my sister, and they happily came and stayed on board with us. The boys simply adore being aboard, and who wouldn’t at their age! I got convinced (coerced?) as always to be the one to go into the river with them, so that they could do more SUP and simply enjoy the country pleasures of swimming in fresh waters. In all honesty, if it hadn’t have been for the squelchy ground and the long reeds, I would even go so far as to say I enjoyed it too…. (but let’s not get carried away).

And then, in the blink of an eye, the journey was complete. We were in full lockdown no more, our movement was over, and we found ourselves moored up, preparing to ‘move into’ Debdale Wharf marina.

To be continued….

Corona Canal Chronicles #4

Some mornings were so brisk it took my breath away, and the air was unsure which way to pass. Others were bright and sun-filled.

Of course, whilst we traversed the waters, it was not without taking pause to check on the bird-life of our surrounds. And therefore, we continued to adopt various ducky families, swans and cygnets along our way. In fact, to the point that the supermarkets on our routes must surely have begun to run low on stock, for all the pennies spent on bird feed!

Meanwhile I think it would be fair to say, that by this point, cabin fever had started to set in for me. That and the never-ending study that is. So much so, that I was excitedly distracted by my new discovery of silver polish (who knew the difference it could make!). Rather than continue watching the letters and words scramble around on-screen, I took great delight in whiling away a few hours, scrubbing up the brass from the boat’s lounge area. They say small things please small minds…well, I definitely found it most satisfying!

Hmm. Perhaps I had been on the boat too long 😉

By now, the lockdown ease had continued to fluctuate and vary, with the overarching motto – Stay Alert. Somehow this assumed attentiveness would mean that none of us were at danger anymore. Yet we still couldn’t visit public places with more than a set number of people, they had to be within our bubble somehow or another, but we could begin to think about returning to public houses and whatnot. Honestly, the mind boggles.

Therefore, I was able to enjoy a socially-distanced visit to my sister and nephews, though not entirely enjoying the paddling pool experience at my age and aversion for cold things, and I was also to make arrangements to finally pay a visit to my dad. Whilst we kept our distance, it turned out his loveable bear-like dog, Luke, had other plans, as he opted to shower me in doggie-slobber and give me a good ‘ol wash of love!

Moving onward with the boat (Areandare – can you say it correctly?) we now arrived parallel to the River Trent. The beautiful Shugborough Hall was our next door neighbour, and the gorgeous star bridge our passage.

Even the cows were pretty cool-looking, and we managed to acquire a rather nice mother-daughter picture to boot.

Moving further along, we ended up near my aunt’s house, close to Fradley Junction. And for the first time since I had landed in the UK, I left the boat for an overnight stay on land! (To sort out my rather bedraggled hair and see some of my cousins and aunt from afar). It was such a surreal experience to then enter the city of Lichfield and walk past “real-life” humans. With no-one wearing masks either, and to eat “out”, especially as the meal venue had formerly been the site of my mum and stepdad’s Calendar club store. that I had helped out in, some Christmases ago!

And then once again, I arrived back onboard the boat, to be gifted with a beautiful hand-made Paua mask from my mum, made from some of her wedding top-table material! Canal life went on.

To be continued…

Corona Canal Chronicles #2

So, with June came the ease of Lockdown, and start of the Corona Canal Club’s journey towards Debdale Wharf Marina, Leicestershire. The ease meant we were finally about to leave Hurleston junction and head up the Llangollen canal, allowing for closer access to my sister and her family, as well as some wonderful countryside mooring spots.

We climbed the first set of locks, and headed to the picturesque village of Wrenbury. Some of the houses there were really intriguing, and almost fairtytale like. The local store was also quaint, with a help-yourself herb garden, which I loved!

From here, we passed through various lift bridges (time to get my muscles working again after all the time sat typing away on the laptop) and more idyllic villages based along the canal side. There was such a plethora of UK wild flowers along the way, that added to the visual beauty.

There was even the odd moment when I drove the boat, though I refrained from doing so when entering the locks – that is a fine art I am yet to master.

Onwards, to one of our first moorings nearer to my sister, where they greeted us and assisted with lock openings whilst maintaining social distance. Gosh that time period was hard on families and young ones – lack of physical connection between extended family and friends was such an emotional challenge, bless everyone.

And then, to ensure things were not entirely brand new to our little canal club bubble, we sorted out our lovely Brazier and chairs setting, ensuring that for the time we were there, we once again made the most of the stunning views, the fresh air, the sounds and sights of the wildlife, and the tranquillity of being far from traffic and built-up areas. Though to be fair, it wasn’t quite as quiet as we’d hoped! (Lots of people passing by, seemingly totally unaware that people actually lived on the boats there were adjacent to their shoulders! Meanwhile, my Masters work continued, and the snippets of outside views to assist with the locks and bridges fell into the background, as I continued on my merry way through the melee of books and papers and data, trying in vain to reach the final page of writing.

Oh but of course, I found myself a new little duck family to tend to…..I couldn’t help myself 😉

To be continued….

Mellowing out in Mauritius

I love my life. Truly. And each day, even in difficult times, I acknowledge the blessings within it.

Few people can tell the tales I have told, nor wander the walk-boards I have walked.

I am unmarried, childless, ageing, wandering, and wisening.

Often people look at me with a certain trepidation when they realise how often I am alone, both at home and away. They share a worry or fear, of how lonely this must be, and how terrifying also.

Yet literally as I’m typing, James Blunt comes onto the airwaves and states “My life is brilliant”. And it is.

Continue reading “Mellowing out in Mauritius”

Goodbye is not forever

This expat life is not the one I ever saw myself taking. I got on that plane years ago, because I wanted to live in Africa. I wanted to wake beneath the African sun, hear the songs of the African sky, and sleep beneath the African stars. Uganda was to be my forever home.

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And then it was no more.

It has been a few years now since I have lived in Lagos, Nigeria, and at times it is hard for me to ever imagine living elsewhere, least of all the UK.

It has it’s ups and downs, of that I can be very sure! And often I wonder why I am still living there when it has caused much separation from loved ones and favored foods and places. Yet ultimately I land back upon the same conclusion. Africa continues to live in me. I do not fully know what the magnetism is for me, but it remains. And for now, this pole is centred within Nigeria.

Continue reading “Goodbye is not forever”

Bouncing in and out of Benin; la voyage est la destination

Time is faster than many of us would like and much of it is spent working in order to be able to afford the homes we live in, the clothes we wear, the activities we enjoy doing in those snippets of time when we are no longer at work. There is an adage that many of us are working so that we can reach death, whilst not having the chance to experience life.

This is not the way I want to be.

Osho Quotes on Life and Death

Taking Sannyasin many years ago was not an easy choice for me. I can get overwhelmed by anxiety within my own mind and I can feel reproachful and guilty for things that have long since been said and done. Most likely forgotten by others, but remnants that stay in my mind and heart. However, as part of my dedication to self-love and also a life of service, I consciously chose to ascribe to Osho’s teachings, practice and guidance. To be accountable for my choices and actions always, but not to be laden down by what has gone before. To grasp life in each breath, to continually make the best choice I can, in that very moment, and to trust that this may not be the same choice I make again, even in the next five minutes, let alone years later. To come from my heart always, and to live, fully, in every breath. Conscious choices, loving mind, practices of kindness, service and honesty. I am often heard repeating my personal mantra –

I will only die once, and in that I will most likely have little say. But I can live every moment, and in that I have all the say in the world.

Continue reading “Bouncing in and out of Benin; la voyage est la destination”

What the mind does not want, the eye will never see.

There I was, looking back in the mirror at a reflection I barely recognised. Not through significant outward appearance, but through lack of time spent looking in: through a rapid pace of life rushing past me, rapid adaptations being required, and many commitments to meet. Moving to my new country, aligning myself with my new job, meeting new colleagues and familiars, greeting my mother to my beloved Africa, adapting to my new physio regime, tasting new spices and foods, and so on. It was all happening at a rate of knots so fast that I felt like I was barely remembering to sleep let alone meditate, sit in stillness, reflect, appreciate, calm, ease, or most of all, breathe.

It came as somewhat of a surprise to find myself therefore, looking back at this forgotten woman in the mirror, as she showed a startled look to her face. My mother had just landed back in the UK and had sent a cautionary message.  She advised that I check my Nigerian Visa requirements, in order to be sure that I could travel to my other beloved homelands the following week, as per original plan. The ‘she’ in this, being I, lost all colour to her face.

There I had been, feeling quite calm about my mum’s departure, due to an assertion that I would be seeing others that I loved within the week.Admitedly finances have not been flowing easily but where there is a will there is always a way and I knew that I would arrive to exactly where I needed to be the following week regardless. Therefore I did not think much of the message at all. A whisper in the back of my mind popped up however… so a day or two later I did hunt out my passport, just to double check, before I devised some way of securing an airline ticket.

Lo and behold she was right.

Through having a short-term work permit rather than my permanent one (another story to be told another time undoubtedly), I discovered I am here on a single entry only. Thus, whilst my ex-pat colleagues all around me were telling tales of their travels to come, I found myself there, ashen-faced, looking back at a bewildered face, feeling like the walls had begun to rapidly cave in on me.

Continue reading “What the mind does not want, the eye will never see.”

Returning to the roots of those who have walked here before us

With an increasing frequency of more universal messages arriving to my ears, I feel a oneness and inherent belief that despite the whiteness of my skin, my source is here within the lands of Africa. In fact, colleagues of mine this past week even said as such; “are you sure you aren’t really African Miss?

From this, it makes complete and natural sense that my mother should have made the difficult (yet well-worth it) efforts to meet hectic visa requirements and end up here in Africa beside me, albeit for only 10 days (due to her busy schedule and multitude of commitments). In the 1940s my grandfather was here in Nigeria, and some 70 years later, so now has been his daughter, beside her daughter in fact. She brought with her letters of people who loved my grandfather for his kindness, and she was able to see firsthand, what the difference is like for life here in comparison to wherever “there” may be.

In some ways, it was such a rushed time having her here, having only landed here myself some two weeks prior. Of course, the initial intention had been that she would have been beside me sharing my affair with Uganda. But come she did, regardless of where the “here” now was. Thankfully, due to my adaptations to African ways of living from my Ugandan time, I was able to adjust relatively quickly and speedily to my new surroundings, such that by the time she arrived, it was smooth enough for her and I had many things in place. I have not yet really traversed the lands, but I rapidly began to suss out the ways of them and be able to support my mum with the intense adjustments she had to make from being in the UK to being here in Nigeria.

Continue reading “Returning to the roots of those who have walked here before us”

Now. New in Nigeria.

Life twists and turns in so many ways, and almost a year ago to the day, I interviewed for, and made the final decision of, a move to Uganda, East Africa. Now, in 2017, I move forwards to another moment in time and find myself landing upon a new lily-pad – this time by the name of Lagos, Nigeria. This was a highly unexpected and unforeseen move, for various reasons, yet here I found myself, treading the waters of footsteps that have gone before me …. even those of my late grandfather, who worked in this country (though further along the coast) as an engineer over 60 years ago. In this change of an un-designated and thus un-mapped story of my wanderings, I walked forwards towards a new wabi-sabi; discovery of beauty in imperfection; the acceptance of the cycle of light and death.

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Continue reading “Now. New in Nigeria.”