How creating a cartoon saved my life

The story of Harry Helona

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Now I am not invisible of dead I am a 40 plusser and I love sharing my stories and making you giggle. This week it’s all about a cartoon called ‘Harry Helona’ (Greek for tortoise) which I created back in the winter of 1994. Harry has been in hibernation since the Summer of 1995- that’s a long stretch even in tortoise terms    

Harry is wise, independent and caring. His perception of ‘humans’ and everyday situations brings joy and laughter to this cartoon. A 40 plusser of some years, his creation came at a time where I needed him most. My life saver.

After 23 years Harry has returned to support, guide and share true meanings and reflections in this crazy colourful world called LIFE. Harry takes his time, analysis and shares his intelligent words, the ultimate COACH

As my ‘I am not invisible or dead, I am a 40 plusser’ readers will already know about my connections with Greece, it was only a few weeks ago I blogged about our Shirley Valentine. This week I take myself out of my comfort zone, peel aware my protective amour or in this case tortoise shell and dig deep.
This is the story of Harry Helona and how he was my life saver. I am an intensely private personality type, so I am bearing my soul, I hope and pray I do Harry’s story justice.

For those of you who may be going through a difficult time, separation, bereavement, illness or sadness, this story is especially for you

Harrys Story

I was young, free as a bird and passionately in love, living in the land of the gods, it was my fourth summer season and I was well on the way to becoming Clarey the Greek. I’d be the one dancing on the bar ‘Tsifteteli’ style, flitting between Greek and English (Gringlish as it was known). I had fully conformed. I could not only say ‘spanakopita’ but I could cook the damn thing too (it’s a spinach and feta filo pastry best washed down with an ice-cold frappe)
My life came crashing down around me as my long-term relationship ended (yes it was a Greek tragedy) my heart was torn apart, and my life felt like I was being dragged by Hades into the underworld, never to see the light of day again. I packed my bags and headed home as the pain was too much to survive. Blighty bound, I arrived home NOT to find my parents. My entire self knew something was very wrong. After many phone calls and hours of panic I discovered that my Dad had been admitted into hospital, 6 weeks later he died.

I hear you thinking ‘how is this relevant to Harry Helona’?

Well, I love Helona’s, if I were an animal…..? You’ve guessed it, a tortoise I would be. During this period of what could only be described as ‘the worst year of my life’, I created Harry in a cartoon style.

Let me tell you now, I am not an artist, I don’t paint, draw or sketch. I am NOT a cartoonist by nature. I only started writing a year ago for the love of my blog. Something deep inside guided me to create Harry Helona. To create laughter, where there was immense sadness, to create hope, where there was profound despair, to create an outlet for me, my flow, my distraction, my grief.

Harry became my source of comfort, my life saver!

Now this will blow your mind, but when I showed my creation to my Mum, she stopped dead in her tracks, gasped and to my amazement told me what I now know to be a little miracle.

My Father was made of strong stuff, unbreakable, old school, he lived with a life long disability which often made him cranky. He was forced to leave school aged 15 years old to support the family after the death of his Father. No choice. No options. His duty.

I never knew my grandfather, I’d only ever seen one photo of him. I thought he was a postman. He was also a cartoonist, not professional, but as a hobby. He would draw funny cartoons on the front of an envelope and post them to my Dad as a young boy. He’d draw these amazing cartoons, hilariously funny and current for that era. It made Dads day apparently and he kept the copies.



I NEVER knew

I stared at the pictures for what seemed like an eternity. Absorbed in the characters and astonished by what I was seeing in front of my own eyes, decades later.

 Was this a coincidence?

Was this my grandfather calling out to me in my darkest hour?

Was Harry Helona, my rock for 6 months a gift from him to get me through the toughest time?

Harry and I returned to Greece together the following Spring, to help accept the sadness and close a very emotional chapter in my ‘This is Your Life’ book. Once healed, Harry went into hibernation.   

Harry Helona saved my life. Kept me going. I didn’t know at the time Harry was me. Didn’t seem fair to keep him in hibernation any longer, so yesterday I found him in the box where he’d laid for many years and set him free.

Harry is now part of the I am not invisible, or Dead I am a 40 plusser group – he will share his insights with you all- I hope you love him as much as I do.

Harrys story shows the power of creativity and the healing nature of finding your flow. During Life Coaching sessions, creativity is often a hot topic of conversation as together we are creating time and space for this flow to happen. Too many people label themselves as ‘I’m not the creative one’. Upon further questioning, this predetermined idea is soon challenged, to some amazing results.   

I do also love a good ‘reflect’, doesn’t everyone? Upon reflection of Harrys story, not only do I feel he was my life saver but also the belief that I have always been a coach, but it’s just taken me years to realise my purpose in life. The signs were all there I just didn’t know what those signs really stood for.
Life Coaching helps with these signs, the ultimate Life Puzzle as we slowly discover new pieces, hidden away and ready to be slotted into another piece. Together we look for the frame and step by step complete the Life Puzzle.
I can’t sell Life Coaching to you, it is not possible. The powerful outcomes that are created during the Life Coaching process is my driving force to continue to share the love of coaching and think of purposeful ways to offer coaching.

Start with a telephone call to discover more. You are absolutely under no obligation. If you are curious, if you are stuck, if something doesn’t feel right, but unsure what it is, if you want to create something, please don’t spend 23 years wondering ‘what if’, there is nothing to lose my making a call.

This week I saw a sign, huge with neon flashing lights. As a qualified coach I now see signs clearly, as I support my clients with their life maps and signs too. Thanks to Psychologies magazine #ambassador the sign was planted firmly in my line of vision. I am now exploring the possibility to create life coaching back in the land of my Harry Helona. In September I will be heading to Greece to set those wheels in motion. Want to come?

Stay colourful my friends


Clare Percival

Life & Career Coach /Ambassador, Now it's all about me

I'm Clare, a life and career coach, NLP practitioner and champion of people. My aim is to help bring change, purpose and fulfillment into the lives of those who need it the most, by taking action. Learning to live life in colour and going at a pace that suits.