Extract from a story about Christmas in Spetses by Mary Irvine

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greece-march-2014-042

This is an extract from a novel based on Spetses, where I lived for ten years. This incident actually happened to me the first Christmas after my partner had died.
I have adapted it to fit the fictionalised story.  Mary Irvine

Diary Entry (Boxing Day)

Family over way preparing to spend Christmas in Epidauros. Due to leave Christmas Eve afternoon. In the morning Esther sent children with homemade sweets and biscuits, all elegantly packaged. A kind thought. Very enthusiastic lady - always busy. Children well-behaved. Violent winds meant cancelled car ferry and sea-taxis so plans quickly re-arranged. Invited to join them for a meal. Churlish to refuse. Fortunately had a decent French wine to take.  
 
Although it was only a matter of a few yards to Esther’s house Kenneth wore his dark navy, lamb’s wool overcoat, with matching gloves and scarf. The wind tore the metal gate from his hands and clanged shut. The noise had obviously alerted Esther to his imminent arrival as the door was opened before he had time to knock.

‘Come in. Welcome, Happy Christmas. Let me take your coat and things.’
‘Thank you. Some wine for the table.’
‘That wasn’t necessary but thank you. Go into the living room. Christos is there.
 The children are helping me in the kitchen.’

A log fire was throwing out a lot of heat. Christos was crouched to one side of the fire holding a hinged gridiron containing lamb chops, turning it whilst he sprayed a mist of olive oil on the chops.

‘Welcome, Mr Kenneth. There is wine on the table. It’s Cretan, from my village. Very good’.                   

Kenneth reluctantly headed towards the jug of warm wine. His palate had still not accustomed itself to Greek wine, no matter where it came from, each area purporting to be ‘the best’. A temporary rescue came in the form of Esther as she and the three girls came in carrying a variety of salads and a wide assortment of vegetables. These were placed on the festively dressed table. Esther disappeared back into the kitchen. The three children sat and looked nervously at Kenneth. He had never felt comfortable in the company of children despite his many nieces and nephews, but he felt he should make an effort.

‘Were you disappointed you couldn’t get to Epidauros?’
Irene, the oldest, and Constantina, the youngest, looked at Sylvia.
‘No, Mr Kenneth. This happens often. We just go tomorrow, or the next day.’

Her sisters giggled. Another rescue, this time from further conversation with the children, as Esther appeared with a mountain of chips. Placing the mountain on the table she picked up an empty plate and strode to the fire allowing her husband to transfer the chops to the plate.
The meal passed pleasantly with all the conversation conducted in English, the children joining in more readily. With the naivety of youth they proceeded to ask Kenneth personal questions.  ‘Did he have children?’, ‘Was he married? Why not?’

Esther intervened, saving Kenneth the embarrassment of answer.

The main meal over Esther collected the plates, the children the remains of the salads and vegetables.

‘That was lovely, Esther. Thank you.’

Christos re-filled Kenneth’s glass.

‘It’s good, yes?’
‘Oh, yes, certainly, yes, very good. Most unusual bouquet. Yes, very nice.’

A large choice of homemade sweets and biscuits followed.  Kenneth was offered a cognac which he grateful accepted. Then came the present exchange.

Each of the girls received her chosen gift. Irene a wristwatch, Sylvia the latest Harry Potter and Constantina a novelty bedroom wall clock. The children’s gifts to their parents had all been handmade. Dad’s was a pipe stand made from stiff card and painted to resemble wood. Mum’s was a round mirror rescued from the tip. It had been cleaned and was now resplendent in a colourful frame of homemade paper flowers. Kenneth’s a small picture frame made of corrugated paper with a decorative surround of broken mosaics in shades of pinks and mauves. From its centre three young faces smiled out at him.  Not a man given to any display of emotion he felt moved by this token.

‘That’s so kind. Thank you so much. It will remind me of my stay here when I go home.’

‘Maybe you’ll stay forever. Like Mama.’

Sylvia was definitely the most forthright of the trio.

Diary Entry Boxing Day (cont).

Makes one think - never really have before - real meaning of Christmas. Go to church with Mater et al, really a formality. Local populous expect landed gentry attending requisite services. One present each. Wouldn’t get away with that with my grasping nieces and nephews. Ha! Could try it next year…

Mary Irvine, November, 2016

Ice on Loch Lomond by Catriona Malan
Driving to Mass by Micheal Norton

This section: Christmas Poems , Stories and Winter Tales

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Publisher of Pat’s Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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