Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Reports of my Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Thus Mark Twain when newspapers published his obituary too soon.

There is a Norwegian chap called Stavros here in the island. Not his real name of course, but Stavros is easier to pronounce. He is a little older than I am and we both have respiratory problems. Nevertheless we both walk every day — though not, except by chance, at the same time — to the little church of John the Baptist; about a mile there and a mile back. The path passes by the place Fat Maria — a woman of spectacular stupidity who knows, and relays with relish, all the local gossip — keeps her goats, just past the ancient alonia or threshing floors.

Stavros has a Ukranian girlfriend, and they spent the winter in Mariopol, a city not noted for pure air, and Stavros got very ill. In fact, a rumour reached the island that he’d died. Then we heard he would be arriving back in the island on the next day’s ferry, so it was assumed this would be in a box and the sexton hastily dug a suitable hole in the little cemetery just outside the village.

Antonio drove down to meet the ferry and bring the box up, while well-wishers gathered at the cemetery to see Stavros into the earth. Antonio was surprised to see Stavros walking — albeit slowly, with a stick — down the gangplank. They drove up together to the cemetery and there was general rejoicing: it’s usual after a burial for the mourners to go for drinks to a nearby taverna, and of course they all did, the only difference this time being that the late lamented was present in body as well as spirit.

The next day Stavros set out on his usual walk. Maria was sitting on the ground knitting, surrounded by her goats. When she looked up and saw Stavros approaching up the footpath, she gaped, screamed, dropped her knitting, and ran off as fast as her fat little legs would carry her.

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