I haven’t talked…

… very much, I find, about People. Even my good friends Alexis and Nikos are rather sketchily described in this journal. This was and is partly to make them less identifiable as clues to my whereabouts, but also, I guess, because I am not much of a “people” person. What a disgusting cliché that is.

There is another recluse on the island. I have known about him since just after I arrived, but it took until this weekend for me to talk to him. Like me, he has a little house a few miles from town, though it’s not as isolated as mine. There a few houses and a desultory general store / kafenion nearby. Like me, he frequents Nikos’ taverna, though less frequently than I do. Like me, he is a foreigner and no-one knows much about him. His Greek is even worse than mine, but I gather he speaks a number of middle-eastern languages. He speaks English with an Indian accent and he looks like a dark-skinned Indian or Pakistani. He must be about forty, but retains a youthful zest.

Sometimes he sits on a stool near the harbour, and draws caricatures of tourists for money. His life-style is austere, though his house is much better than mine, and he owns a fairly new Japanese motorcycle. In Nikos’ he occasionally dashes off a sketch of a fellow diner, and drops it on their table, gratis, as he leaves. I have found it hard to pigeon-hole him.

I got talking to him on Saturday when he was trying to find out from Nikos what was in the tzadziki. I intervened to tell him it was much the same as raita, an Indian dish – ie yoghurt and cucumber with (in Nikos’ case, compulsory) garlic and parsley.

His name, he tells me, is Ginger, which surely cannot be his real name. He went to Art College in Middlesborough, so I guess Ginger is a corruption of his actual name that he was given by fellow students. All we had in common was English. I have never been to Middlesborough; he never spent any time in London, Edinburgh or Glasgow. Apparently, he is a trained Air Traffic Controller, but has never used the skill. He was interested in the Ashes Test Match, especially since it had reached an exciting stage. I have no interest in cricket. When he heard I was “in computers”, he gave the usual fascinated shudder you get from IT-phobes.

And that is where we would have left it had he not invited me to his place for lunch today, since he was reasonably confident the Test Match would end yesterday. It did. England won, apparently. Even I, not a cricket fan, know that this was an unusual occurrence. Boredom, rather than curiosity, prompted me to agree to lunch. He lives alone, I hear. There are probably rumours that he is gay, but none of my Greek friends have mentioned anything to me. If he has been listening to rumours about me, they will give him no prospect of a kindred spirit in the gay department. I hope.

Lunch was excellent, but simple. Humous flavoured with exotic spices, a huge salad with feta cheese, Greek baklava and that shredded wheat with honey, rosewater and nuts whose name I forget – no I don’t – kataif. All washed down with iced water and thick coffee. I was left wondering whether he is a Muslim or a recovering alcoholic. As a graduate of an English college of education, you have to fear the latter.

Afterwards, he showed me his studio – sketches, outlines, very little finished work, and that rather over-simple in form, like illustrations from a children’s book. The subjects are strangely arrested in motion rather than posed. The rather realistic style of his pictures reminds me of something, but I can’t place it. It is as though he was rendering, in ink and wash, frames from a news bulletin. He cannot be a strict Muslim, can he? I don’t think they allow images to compete with God’s creation. In corners, all over the house, books and newspapers are piled; most are in English, but I saw Arabic and Israeli script on some.

We parted with a handshake. I invited him back to my place next Monday. Being a total stranger to food preparation, I shall have to prevail upon Nikos to recall Ginger’s food preferences and make me a suitable take-away!

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