Mary Irvine: Blogging about Greece: Aegina
I know it’s been a long time but in mitigation I have been busy over-seeing the production of four books, the creation of a DVD and sets of laminated images for a local project involving material for use with people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
‘Aegina’ was in the ‘to be finished’ box. I understand the majority of writers have them. Mark Twain famously never threw anything away. Decided ‘Aegina’ was something I could finish quite quickly.
But then I thought of how you can take an actual event and put a more creative ‘spin’ on it, expanding reality into a completely different interpretation. So I produced the short piece at the end. It’s a sort of ‘For Angelos’ piece and I hope he enjoys it.
I first met Angelos on Spetses. He was studying at the Anargyri College and had come to me for lessons to improve his command of English. A good rapport was established. I was surprised that a young man had such a passion about Frank Sinatra and was pleased that I had cds he could appreciate.He now owns those same cds. During a recent ‘clear-out’ I came across a book tracking Frank’s career. It was parcelled up and sent to Holland where Angelos was then working. We had always kept in touch, albeit spasmodically. Now we were to meet up for the first time since I had left Greece to return to the UK.
My first visit to Aegina was many years ago as part of a Classical Tour. A 3 Islands’ Day Trip from Piraeus, the port of Athens. What I remembered of Aegina from that trip is it has the only surviving example, in Greece, of a two-tiered temple. Later, when I lived in Athens, I would take day trips with friends to the beach on Aegina.
This trip was also a day visit but not to marvel at any ancient ruins. It was to meet my former pupil, Angelos. It had been a smooth crossing from Poros, where I was staying with friends. I had opted for the slow ferry as being more relaxing. There was no-one there to meet me as I disembarked so I sat down on a bench to take in the scene. Then I saw the person I was meeting. Wreathed in smiles we greeted each other, no longer as teacher and pupil, but as friends.
We strolled up the wide jetty which led to a busy waterfront of cafes and tourist shops. Entering a cool building – the prestigious Yacht Club – I followed Angelos to an upstairs balcony, overlooking the harbour. In convivial company and an idyllic setting we enjoyed a beer, catching up on personal news, discussing the economic situation in Greece and the effects on each of us as well as the country at large. Angelos was desperate to find a way he could help but the whole problem seemed, even then, to be on a downward spiral.
Later we took a leisurely walk to a beach taverna where we ordered a variety of freshly prepared dishes, including the most delicious barbounia.
The sea lapped gently a little way in front of us as we enjoyed our time together. The conversation covered many subjects. Angelos seemed full of hope despite the state of the country he loves. He really wanted to help. But like so many young people I had taught another country was the only option, Romania, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland to name but a few. From Holland he moved to London. When I knew I would be visiting friends in Upminster I emailed Angelos and suggested we met. He replied instantly, in the affirmative.
My friends in Upminster suggested he came to their house for a meal. Lunch was arranged. Fortune truly smiled on us for that happened to be his last day in London as he had a new job in Southampton and was decamping the next day.
Sometimes we meet people from our past and the meeting is awkward. This wasn’t. We talked and laughed. Everyone enjoyed the few hours together. I asked for some photos of Aegina – I only have slides somewhere! They arrived within a few days and I append some of them here.
Hope to write more often but the road to hell etc…
Would I recognise him? Would he recognise me? Would he see me as just another old woman? He was so much younger than me but when I suggested we meet up after so long he hadn’t hesitated. Now I was at the station barriers, nervously watching the throng filtering through.
We had first met fourteen years ago. Our relationship had lasted two years. The age difference was considerable but we had bonded instantly. The parting had been natural, inevitable.
There had been intermittent emails – friendly, easy. Then a day spent in each other’s company, a drink or two, a pleasant lunch in a shady spot overlooking a blue sea.
More emails and now, another meeting. The queues had become trickle and he was there, rushing towards me.
We hugged and kissed, told each other ‘You haven’t changed a bit!’
The former relationship had gone but the friendship survived.
This section: Mary Irvine: Writer and Philhellene, Writing
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