Thursday, 27 September 2012

Births, Deaths and Marriages. Well, two out of the three anyway...

Just when you think you're doing really well, motoring in fact, with the language, something happens which reminds you that you still have a way to go.

You know, I've lived out here for seven years now and I can hold a pretty good conversation with a local Greek. I can even read and write the language, a fact which often really surprises a Greek when they see me write something down. So I've been getting used to not dropping quite so many clangers as I did in the beginning. Feeling quite proud of myself, in fact. Still, pride goes before a crash and all that stuff, eh?

Just a few days ago we went to visit Josie (whose new novel "From Lindos With Love" is competing annoyingly well with my four offerings in the Kindle "best sellers in Greek travel writing" list) and, yards before we reached Josie's garden gate, we struck up a conversation with her Neighbour Dimitra. She's all excited about the forthcoming wedding of her daughter, which is to take place during November, which accounts for all the re-modelling of their house that's been going on of late. Daughter and hubby will be living upstairs and Dimitra and her useless husband on the ground floor. A newly built low wall separates the access paths from each dwelling and some swanky new windows have recently been installed all over the house.

As we approached, Kyria Dimitra was hosing down the marble slabs of her pathway with the usual nozzle-less hose pipe and a long-handled brush. Water was freely cascading down the gently sloping path approaching the front gate's step and it was an inch or so deep in a torrent all across the path which we needed to traverse in order to reach Josie's gate. Seeing us approaching, her face acquired a huge smile as she hailed us in response to my wife's "Yia sas, ti kanete Kyria Dimitra?". Stepping out from the gate to within inches of the route we were about to follow it became evident that she was eager to pass the time of day before letting us pass.

Holding her left hand down by her side, the one which gripped the open-ended and still gushing hose, she leaned on her brush with the other and asked us how we were, what we were doing, were we working, had we been to the UK at all, my inside leg measurement (well, I may be exaggerating on that one, but that's how the usual inquisition makes one feel) and so on. As we chatted I was ever more conscious of the fact that my nice dapper new white shoes were beginning to get ever-so slightly moist, so much in fact that my feet were starting to feel wet.

I deftly adjusted my position in order to distance myself from the torrent which was still emerging from the hose, aware as I was also that the white linen trousers which I was wearing were now getting liberally splashed with watermarks from the cascade which was rather fetchingly causing great flying droplets as it hit the concrete inches away and absorbed all the dust of the summer which had built up there.

"You must be thrilled about the wedding. I bet you can't wait," said my wife, and then continued, "Have you got a new dress?"

"New dress? Panagia mou, but I can't afford such luxuries. What with the cost of the wedding and all the building work that's gone on to get the house ready, then there's my useless husband; he doesn't bring anything in these days. New dress? No, I'll be re-modelling an old one, that's for sure." At this point her demeanour changed and she became a little more melancholy.

"Of course, the whole occasion will be tinged with a little sadness too you know." She added, in that way which kind of invites you to ask her to continue, since that's how she's pitched it after all. "You notice I'm all in black?" To be truthful, we hadn't, since it seemed to us that she's always in black anyway. But that didn't stop us from raising our eyebrows sympathetically and enquiring as to what exactly she meant. So, yes, we enquired as to what exactly she meant, since she was waiting for us to do so…

"Ah, well, just two months ago my brother died. Very sudden. Only 72."

Now, it was at this point that I was reminded that I can still drop a clanger when I'm not careful. Let me explain. The Greek word for "Condolences" is συλλυπητήρια, or, in the English alphabet, sillipityria. Right? Good. The word for congratulations, on the other hand, is συγχαρητήρια, or sigharityria. It's an easy mistake to make after all. Especially when you haven't had occasion to use either word for a few months.

I think she knew what I meant when I congratulated her on her brother's demise. Of course, Yvonne-Maria my better half was quick to limit the damage by exclaiming that I'd got it wrong and assuring our friend that I'd meant to offer my condolences.

Unable to restrain myself, I'm not sure if I actually helped the situation by then adding whilst addressing my wife in Dimitra's hearing, "Well, maybe she didn't like him anyway."

Ho hum. You win some, you lose some. Onward and upwards...

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