We’re almost three months into the new year, and I have noticed lots of people joining gyms, going on diets, and generally making an effort to  introduce some kind of positive change in their lives.

For me the annual thoughts of change are quite ritualistic, and stem from an innate need to be constantly altered, or ready for the next, novel experience.

To some, I might be deemed as “restless!”; or maybe I just like living in the moment, taking chances – opportunities, where more staid characters would not necessarily see any?

By ritualistic, I mean that I do the same things every year, as I move in time with the change of the seasons. Like some birds, I prefer to “fly South” whether physically, emotionally, or imaginatively.

I withdraw into the cocoon of my home, and cease socialising outside; I prefer people to come to me as part of an insular gathering, where we sit, exchange news, light candles, and eat vegetable curry!

My feelings are the same each year. It takes me until April to really come alive from my self imposed hibernation, which starts as soon as the clocks turn back in late October (in the northern hemisphere), and ends late March after the Spring Equinox.

This yearly retreat allows me time to dream, think, and plan changes that I want to happen. The silence gives me the courage to believe that I can enlist the help of other people to makes small, changes, that enhance, and are beneficial to my well-being.

Perhaps I intuitively hark back to the time when our nomadic ancestors found it too dangerous to travel, and stayed close to the fire/settlement? Was this the dreaming time, when the external world was temporarily suspended? when time knew no bounds, and the seeds of what was to come were planted?


We tend to see change as a sudden thing, but when we look back with the infamous hindsight, we can see that there were signs, which we may not have been aware of in the background. There were subtle signs that we did not or would not see, or simply could not decipher? We may have ignored a gut feeling about a person or an event, and bowed to the superiority of logic and rationale, when the occasion needed a more intuitive approach.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly”. ~Henri Bergson

I have learned that change is really scary at the best of times, even when it is so obviously good for us! Most of us are so used to routine, and although we may say we want change, the physical reality of becoming a slightly, different, person terrifies the conventional part of us that has been programmed and tempered by experiencing, repetitive, lives.

I’m not saying that we all have to start “do – derring” or turn from Clark Kent into Superman, because that would be the other extreme! I am suggesting that all of us need to be periodically challenged; shifted ever so slightly from our comfort zone!. So whether it ‘s joining a dance class or striking up an acquaintance with a fellow commuter that you see on the “0709 to worksville”, a little change is healthy and necessary in a world where constant change is the only certainty.

We make up all sorts of excuses not to change, even when change is staring us in the face. It’s as if everyday life has gripped us in some kind of potent spell; fear of upsetting the status quo (offending our loved ones, friends, and work colleagues) consumes our thoughts as we hurtle towards normality, and all the dreams that we ever had are carefully laid at the bottom of an ottoman.


I resisted a lifestyle change for many years. I loved singing jazz and blues all over the world. My heart would almost skip a beat, when I boarded a plane, or stepped on a tour bus; later when I slowed down, I couldn’t wait to do jazz gigs in a different town/place every weekend.

On one occasion, while driving home at 2am in the morning on the motorway, I must have momentarily fallen asleep, and I suddenly opened my blurry eyes to see that I was moving towards the central reservation! I  managed to steer to the left just in time. If I had not woken at that point, I would have ended up in a  deep, ditch on the opposite side of the carriageway, with  nobody any the wiser!

After that frightening  incident, I decided that I could not work four days a week at a day job, and do three gigs every weekend throughout the summer, until early January each year.

I tried to heed the” wake-up call”, but I felt that I needed the money, and loved singing with different bands. So, I reduced my gigs to just one a week. I was very disciplined about working, and kept to my decision to do four gigs a month instead of the usual twelve. I truly thought that this would be enough change in my life, so that I could combine duty and necessity.

I did not really miss the reduction in my income, until I got an amazing offer to sing bi-weekly in Spain for a string of business hotels!

I was so excited that I did not really think  how this new arrangement would affect my life-work balance, all I could see was the excitement of turning up in different cities, meeting new people, and eating great Spanish food!


“If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.” ~Author Unknown






For the first couple of months, I managed to work well within my new structure, and had no complaints. I managed to combine one of my gig trips with a visit to a dear friend, who lived in Madrid. I then flew back in time to fulfil a long standing engagement singing with a big band for the 60th anniversary of “D-Day”, drove home exhausted, parked my car and feel into a deep sleep.

I woke up around 7am on June 7th 2004, and noticed that although my eyes were fully open, I could not see anything. It was like having your eyes closed, but your brain knows that your eyes are wide open! I blinked quite a few times, thinking that perhaps my eyes were not ready to wake up yet. Although I kept squeezing my eyes shut, and opening them as wide as possible, I was still in darkness.

At first I found it amusing. perhaps my eyes were on strike, and had decided to take the day off? After all, They had been working hard for me for thirty plus years?! I tried to walk to my kitchen to make a cup of tea, caressing the cupboard door, nimbly feeling for a cup. I shuffled towards the kettle, and eventually found the switch.

As I heard the kettle hiss, and the familiar click to signal that the kettle had boiled, it dawned on me that I could not see anything!

My mind froze momentarily, perhaps to allow me to begin to comprehend that this was something serious? I staggered towards the phone on the wall. I felt the keys, and slowly pressed “999”

“Emergency services, which service do you require?”, enquired  a voice

“Ambulance, please. I can’t see”, I replied

“You can’t see?”, the voice asked

“Yes, I’ve just woken up, my eyes are open, but I can’t see anything!”, I replied.

“I see. What’s your address, please?”,  continued the voice.

“34 Yarwell Headlands”, I replied, automatically.

” Thank you. Can you open the door?” asked the voice , formally.

“I think so”, I replied, uncertainly.

“Try to stay near the front door, and someone will be with you within fifteen minutes”, came the reassuring respone.

“Thank you”, I said, noting that my breathing had quickened quite a bit.

I stood near the front door, like a reluctant burglar, my hand on the keys that I left in the lock overnight. I kept jingling the keys, to stop a sudden, rising nausea in my stomach. Concentrating on the tinny sound  kept me alert, and I felt comforted, as if an old friend was with me.

Not being able to see alters your perspective concerning the passage of time. Light and vision are  ways of processing, and understanding how time moves. They also keep you in touch, with the physicality of the  present.

From my new, sightless perspective, although it seemed like hours before the ambulance arrived, it was probably only a few minutes.

I sensed the paramedic hovering on my doorstep. He seemed reluctant to come in.  I heard a faint movement towards me, and then a deep, gentle voice.

” Hello, I’m the ambulance. Are you Claudia?” rumbled a voice

“Yes”, I replied.

Can you see anything at all?” it asked.

“No, I replied.

How many fingers am I holding up?” it asked, again.

I stretched my hand out and feebly tried to locate his. It felt soft.

“I don’t know. I cannot see anything at all!” I replied

I felt him turn, and he carefully took my hand and placed it on his right shoulder.

“I want you to follow me. he said,” I’m going to lead you to the ambulance, and I’ll help you to get onto the stretcher, he added.” We’ll get you sorted, but I think that everything is going to change for you now.”

I felt those last words pierce my mind, and I slowly realised that some kind of change had occurred. I felt ambivalent and a bit inconvenienced by my eyes, as if sudden blindness would only get in the way of my busy life.

I heard the paramedic speak into his radio, and stood perfectly still. I strained to hear him, because I thought that any connection with him however slight would keep me safe; keep me from sliding into the darkness of enforced change.

I moved my head in his direction, and marvelled that this was the first time in a long while that I had asked for help, or touched anyone’s shoulder. I took a deep breath, and clasped his bony epaule. He shifted slightly, as if he understood that I was in a kind of disbelief, and I felt the contour of his back, and the top of his arm.

“Ready?” he asked, politely.

I hesitated, and  nodded, as I tuned  into the sound of his voice. He touched my arm, wrist, and called out  instructions so that I could step up into the ambulance.

I waited to be helped onto the stretcher. As he strapped me in, I turned towards him, and tried to imagine what he looked like?

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“I’m Andrew,” he replied

“An-dr-ew.”, I mumrmured, playing with the syllables. “A good, solid name,” I stated.

I shifted onto my side as he put the blanket over me, and I tried to imagine what changes were in store for me, and whether I had missed signs that my life as a singer had come to an abrupt end?








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