About half way through my so far injury and illness-free holiday on the island, I noticed that my shoes were tight.  Not tight as in they-looked-nice-in-the-shop-so-I-bought-them-anyway tight, rather my feet were spilling out of the shoes.  I already hated the appearance of my feet this summer as I managed to get the most spectacularly bad flip flop tan lines on my feet and they looked kind of -well- stripey for want of a better word.   I asked my sisters if they thought my feet and ankles were swollen, they agreed that they were. Everyone told me to put my feet up so I spent that afternoon in bed with my feet elevated instead of at the beach.

My 3 year old niece G was very concerned about what she called my flat feet.

“Does it hurt Mimi?”

“No, sweetie, it doesn’t hurt, it’s just upsetting that I can’t come and swim with you this afternoon.  You come back and tell me all about it, ok?”

Off they went and I stayed home, feet up looking after niece number two, aged one.  That evening they all went out for a walk and D and G chose and came back with a gorgeous nail colour and gave me a pedicure.  Already feeling slightly better about my feet and ankles, I got up for dinner and went out in the evening.  The swelling had gone down with the feet up thing, so I figured that was it.

That night, I had to take my shoes off to walk home.  Gone were the dainty (ahem) ankles I usually sport and my ankles were now blending together nicely with my calves.  I believe the technical term is cankles, and I was not happy about it.  This is not the time for my ankles to get shy.  All year round I wear jeans and no one sees my ankles, maybe they had stage fright?  I don’t know but once again, I took all the cushions off the veranda furniture and slept with my legs in the air.  The next day or so, I spent with my legs up as frequently as possible, but the swelling didn’t go down.  My parents and aunt and uncle started making Doctor noises.  I was having none of it.

“I am sure it’s nothing, it will be fine, I don’t need to go to the doctor, don’t be ridiculous.” I told them.

True to form, my Dad took in what I said, and afforded me all the respect and consideration I deserve aged 43.  He called the doctor. I came out of the shower and he came into my room.

“I told the doctor you would be there within half an hour.  He is expecting you.”

I resisted shouting about it, after all what would be the point?  I just had to hope that he mentioned that I was his adult daughter and that the medic wasn’t expecting a child.  After all, whose parents call the doctor apart from children’s?  Mine that’s whose.  (Actually, it’s not all that unusual for parents to get involved with their adult children’s medical stuff in Greece, but it’s usually mothers with their sons – whole different topic right there).

I was about to start walking to the surgery when my dad stopped me.

“What are you doing?  You can’t go on foot, your mother will take you.”

My argument that I am actually an adult was getting thinner and thinner.

Off we went, and got to the surgery.  I went to the door and rang the bell.  Nothing happened.  I rang again.  Nothing.  There was a note taped to the door with a number to call in case of emergencies.  This wasn’t an emergency so I didn’t even think to call it.  I guess I am very British in that way.  Had I been a ‘real Greek’ I would have called immediately: “Emergency! I have been waiting here for 2 minutes!”  Anyway, another lady walked up.

“Have you been waiting long?” she asked.

“Two minutes, are you the doctor?”

“No, but hang on.”  She took out her mobile and rang the emergency number.

“There’s a lady outside and she’s been waiting.”

A minute later the door opened.  A young-ish man stood on the doorstep.

“Come in.  Sorry to keep you waiting, what seems to be the problem?”

“I think my Dad may have spoken to you, my feet are swollen?” I was extremely embarrassed, not only because my Dad called but also because I felt that this visit was a waste of time. As usual I felt all my Greek desert me as I crossed the threshold. Seriously, I need to get some sort of therapy for that.  Being unable to speak Greek in front of Greeks is a complete pain in the ass. I usually say every fourth or fifth word in English and then people feel compelled to speak to me in English despite my protests that just because I am unable to articulate a sentence, it doesn’t mean that I don’t process information in Greek.

“Oh yes, the swollen feet, come in and hop up onto the table, let’s have a look.”

In the surgery there was a young woman sitting at the computer.  I smiled.  I didn’t know if she was the doctor or a nurse, or if he was the nurse, but whatever, they seemed to be a double act.

I got up onto the examination table and they looked at my feet and ankles pressing either side and seeing how long it took for the skin to settle. (ages).

They were murmuring to each other and I heard stray words like “oedema”, “water retention”, “heat” “definitely swollen”.

“When did this start?”

“The day before yesterday.”

“Did you do anything particularly strenuous?”

“Not really, no”

“Have you been elevating it?”


“Have you been eating or drinking anything unusual?”


“How old are you?”


“You don’t look it.  You look much younger.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to this.  Was he questioning my knowledge of my age? Trying to pick me up?  I settled for my usual response when I don’t know what to say.  I laughed nervously.

“Are you sure you haven’t been over-exerting yourself?  Standing up for long periods of time?”


“Have you gotten fat recently?” (I had to laugh at that, I have used the literal translation here, but I think he might have been trying to establish whether I had gained 20kgs in the four days I had been there)

“Nope,” I replied, “I have been overweight most of my life.  Do you think my feet have suddenly realised that it isn’t temporary and gone on strike?”

He laughed at that, and answered in the negative. Phew, bullet dodged.

What followed reminded me of why I don’t like to visit the doctors in Greece.  They are fantastically alarmist and they over-treat and over-medicate like it’s going out of fashion.

“Well, as it’s both feet, the good news is it’s probably not DVT as it is very unlikely that you would  get two blockages on different legs at the same time.  I will however give you a pill that should help with the circulation in your lower extremities.  Where do you live?”


“When you get back to London, I would recommend the following tests. I’ll write them down to give to your doctor.”

He turned to the lady who had previously only prodded my ankles and nodded as he spoke.

“What do you think?”

She took a breath.  He continued as if he hadn’t just asked her something.

“I think she should have all of the following bloodwork, a Doppler test on her lower extremities and while she’s here let’s give her a cardiogram.”

The woman took notes, and then proceeded to look up all the terms in English on google translate.  I could practically hear the tension in her shoulders as she typed. 9 years at medical school and I’m the google translate girl… I could practically hear her thinking.

She approached and attached the cables to me.  Last time I had an ECG they used stickers to tape the leads to my body, this time it was suction.  The two just above my breasts were extremely painful.  After about 5 minutes, she took them off and he tore the graph paper from the printer triumphantly.

“Perfect, no problems there.  Are you going straight back to London?”

“No, I am in Athens for about 2 weeks.”

“Go to a bio-medical centre and do these tests right away.  Your cardiogram is good, but you should really get them done.  And get the medicine, the pharmacy is still open, start taking it tonight OK?”

I could see him searching around the room trying to find some more equipment to attach me to.

“I’ll just take your blood pressure, please sit up.”

I sat up and had my BP measured.

“All ok there too.”

As he scanned the room I got up quickly before he found a rectal thermometer.

“Thank you so much, Doctor.  I will get it all checked out in Athens.  In the meantime do I have to stop doing anything in particular?”

“No, carry on as normal, just don’t spend hours on your feet.  If you want to walk, that’s fine, just don’t stand around.”

I was backing out of the room.

“Do we owe you anything?”

“Of course not, just please call me when you have the Doppler test and let me know that everything was ok.”

“Er, ok…”

“Do you have my number?”

My mum steps in.

“Yes yes, we have your number”

He carried on talking to me.  At this point we were nearly at the car.

“Let me give you my mobile number”

Mum waved her hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, we have it.  Thank you Doctor, we’ll get in touch.”

He was still holding out his phone and trying to give me his number as we were driving off.

We went to the pharmacy and got the pills and went home.  Dad and my uncle and aunt were waiting anxiously.

“Well what did he say?”

“Nothing.  He gave me some pills and told me that I should get all this stuff done once I was back in Athens.”

They could barely contain their disappointment.  Not that they wanted something to be wrong, but I think they had all been looking forward to seeing which of their theories were most accurate.  I should point out at this juncture that all Greeks (and this is an accurate blanket statement) are medical experts.  There isn’t a Greek alive who doesn’t know what you have, has either had it him or herself, or knows someone who did.  Nine times out of ten they will whip out some pills and offer them to you prescription or not.

Every day after that, my feet would swell up and I would sleep with my legs elevated.  In the morning they would look fine, but as the day wore on, the swelling would increase.  I resigned myself to cankles and flip flops which was not doing anything for the tan lines, but on the plus side was showing off my lovely pedicure.  The medication, which was a soluble tablet administered every night by my niece who loved watching it disperse and then counting me down while I drank it, seemed to have no effect at all.  It was just a generous shot of Fanta and really how useful can that be?  Worse, the feet started to ache and throb which was annoying.

One morning I was sitting at breakfast when my aunt came in.

“How are your feet?”

“They are still a bit swollen -”

“Of course they are!” she exclaimed. “It’s because you have this mania for sitting around with your legs dangling down…”

I bristled at that.

“What do you mean?  It’s a mania that I sit around like a normal person?  That isn’t me being difficult, it’s me and my body obeying the laws of gravity!!!”

I know that sometimes in yoga, our instructor makes us lie on our backs with our feet in the air, but I can barely hold that ‘resting’ pose for a minute never mind live my whole life like that.

Eventually the holiday came to an end and we had to leave for Athens.  We said goodbye to the island, the people left there and our parents, spent the day at the beach on the big island with my godson and his family and then flew back to Athens.  At the airport I had another amusing exchange with the airport staff.  I handed over my passport at the check in desk.

“Oh, yes.  Are you the Mrs X with the overweight?” the woman didn’t even look up.

I looked down at myself.

“What gave me away?” I deadpanned.  Horrified she looked up and blushed.

“Er No! I meant did you pay for an extra suitcase?! I would never…”

I couldn’t keep a straight face any longer and burst out laughing.

“No, it’s not me, there are quite a few of us.  It must be one of my relatives.”

I know it was mean to make her feel uncomfortable, but I just couldn’t help it. Sometimes the joke is there and I am compelled to supply the punchline.  It would be rude not to…

Two days into the stay in Athens, my cousin drove me to the biomedical centre to get the Doppler test as my parents were texting me every half hour about it.  I arrived in the centre which looks like a luxury hotel and rock up to the ultrasound desk.  I present my papers and my travel insurance card and they tell me that it is going to cost me €200 after the discount (considered leaving it, but didn’t think that would fly).  I paid and went off to the test room.  For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t until the other day), a Doppler test is an ultrasound test to measure the blood flow into your veins and arteries in your arms or legs.  A scanner is pressed against (in my case) your legs from the top all the way down to your ankles at various points to make sure that the blood is flowing freely.  It is a non- invasive test (thank goodness) and it takes about 30 minutes, during which I got covered in about a litre of gel and my legs got stuck to the exam table, the paper sheet and each other.  It took me about 10 minutes to wipe it all off, and 15 minutes later we had the results.

What we discovered from the Doppler veins and arteries test on my lower extremities for the (discounted!) price of €200,  was that there were no blockages and that I am extraordinary and embarrassingly ticklish on my right leg.

Knowledge is power, that’s what I say.