A Room with a View of Corfu

I may have been down, but was definitely not out

Simon Heathcote
Know Thyself, Heal Thyself
5 min readJun 9, 2024

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Photo by Petar Lazarevic on Unsplash

‘I don’t mind what happens. That is the essence of inner freedom. It is a timeless spiritual truth: release attachment to outcomes and — deep inside yourself — you’ll feel good no matter what.’ Krishnamurti

And so there it was — as I crash-landed on my own footprint like a collapsing 9/11 tower — the ultimate lesson presented itself one more time, as if just for emphasis.

That’s the problem with holidays on magical Greek isles. Anything can happen including the unexpected and unforeseen.

Perhaps it was because I was wearing sunglasses, or perhaps because I had just changed my shoes, but I didn’t see the step, and so — watched only by vast colonnades of silent pines — I went down in slow motion and just lay on the ground like a dead bird while a small coterie of hotel workers gathered, not as quietly as the pines, though definitely more embarrassed, as I levered myself up, accepting the help on offer.

Failing eyesight might also have something to do with it.

Soon, Balies, was on the scene.

Balies is Moraitika’s wildly unphlegmatic doctor, a year away from a triple heart bypass, and full of vim and vinegar to mask a tender, and infinitely generous heart.

At nearly 70, his womanizing days and the flamboyant escapades with Sandinistas in south America, and helping children in south India are behind him, as he settles for banter with visiting Englishmen and the odd wink to women, which tells you he has still got it.

I liked him immediately though my partner warmed a little more slowly, unsure what to make of his jokes and his constant reference to Viagra.

Iveta, his young Czech wife of 16 years, would pick us up in their car — for my initial X-ray, and later to travel to their clinic in the village, after we both contracted bronchitis. They were friends of the hotel, in the way most people are friendly and helpful here.

And so, a strange friendship began to develop, with Balies turning up regularly to check on me while I stayed bound to the hotel as everyone else came and went in their hire cars, touring Corfu’s highlights, there for experience, while I found myself surrendering to what is, as I had been pressed to do since early childhood.

As some sort of proxy, I pulled up my audiobook, The Magus, and listened to a much younger man’s adventure on a Greek isle and his meeting with the mysterious Conchis (or Conscious) who teaches the novel’s protagonist to love through a series of unsettling experiences, which bring the horrors of the Nazi occupation of Greece, into fresh relief.

As a companion piece, I listened to The Seasons of the Soul by Herman Hesse, who recommends the marriage of the timeless self to the surrendered ego. Even then, nearly 100 years ago, he tells of an age which recognises ‘only money and numbers’.

‘Let others have goals and ambitions; for me, living is enough,’ he tells us.

I understood him exactly, even as he boldly declares, ‘I do not believe in the idea of progress,’ but instead claims an ‘infinite reverence’ for all nature.

Both Hesse and John Fowles, author of the first book, are in the business of stopping time, halting the reader from moving like a conquering hero in their own life, to give pause to the timeless present and to question the assumptions drilled into all of us since birth.

I was also being stopped, forced even, to examine my own ‘missed step,’ which soon became clear. Simply put, I have spent almost my entire life pursuing essential mysteries and meaning and paid almost no attention to the physical vessel that has supported my quest.

Balies was clear: I had to get back to my daily walks, long abandoned, and take more interest in proper nutrition. I knew he was right and this little shock was a warning.

Besides, the cockerel in the olive grove was insistent that I rise each morning early, whether I wanted to or not.

I couldn’t do much, but at least I could reflect.

As I cast my mind back before the fall when we had walked from our hotel down the sharp hill to the beach with its view of the mainland, I recalled the vast phalanx of clifftops, each hosting a small cloud as a cake endures icing, and the lovely swim in the shallow waters when all seemed well.

Later, we had toured the village to discover a universal welcome, as if the constant sun had penetrated each mind and glowed through them to warm the hearts of others. And so, by the time we reached the vertiginous S-bend back to the Corfu Pelagos Hotel, we had braced ourselves for a stiff — though short — walk, only to be met by the owners who threw their shopping in the boot and offered us a lift.

Surely, it was a good omen.

Nicoli and George, our charming hosts, provide home-cooked Greek food, authentic Greek hospitality and even a philosophy borne of hard-won wisdom through both their personal and business challenges (Covid, health scares and a bureaucracy that sometimes feels designed to defeat).

And so, instead of adventures, we made friends; instead of action, there was contemplation; in place of resentment, there was acceptance.

Like Krishnamurti, we might all consider the constant parade of people, places and experiences that cross the screen of our lives as what they are — passing phenomena. They are not here to get attached to, but simply to remind us that we are the screen on which all appears, as well as the light that projects the images.

Everything comes and goes. I am no longer on crutches.

It is all just a passing show and outcomes belong to the mysterious which, on a good day, I can remember to trust.

As Conchis says in The Magus: ‘The human race is unimportant. It is the self that must not be betrayed.’

Quite right. Besides, as Nicoli was quick to point out, I had a room with a view and the perspective to enjoy it.

Copyright Simon Heathcote

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Simon Heathcote
Know Thyself, Heal Thyself

Psychotherapist writing on the human journey for some; irreverently for others; and poetry for myself; former newspaper editor. Heathcosim@aol.com