Friday, 3 May 2019

Special Delivery

I mentioned at the end of the last post about the slightly unusual turn of events during our voyage here to Patmos on Wednesday. As is my habit, as we arrived at each island for the briefest of stopovers, I'd go out on to the rear observation deck to watch the fun as people, parcels and provisions poured on and off from the back of the boat, the so-called "garage" section.

Now, I don't want to show anyone any disrespect, but in my observational capacity, I noted with interest, as we tied up at stop number three (Kalymnos), that there was a hearse waiting quayside, accompanied by a priest who'd just got out of his Suzuki hatchback, carrying a kind of sash thingie which kind of indicated that he was about to do his thing in an official capacity.

Waiting a little off to the left was a small group of people, all dressed entirely in black, the mourners of course. Sure enough, once all the 'living' traffic had either disembarked or come aboard, a group of six men, dressed in jeans and t-shirts, came off the ramp carrying a very long, heavy package wrapped in maroon pvc and bound about with layers of packaging tape, which they deposited on the rear gate of the hearse, whereupon they set abut tearing off the packaging.

Of course, as one would correctly surmise (and I had), once the last of the packaging was discarded, there was revealed a shiny, black coffin, with all those lace 'doilies' hanging out from all around the edge of the rather substantial lid, which, of course, was not sealed. Coffins here are shaped more like the ones you see in America, they're grander than most of those in the UK and not tapered, but rather rectangular. They don't seal coffin lids here in Greece, but it's not because perhaps the occupant may be having second thoughts. No, it rather has to do with the need that the bereaved appear to have of seeing the deceased right up until the last minute, many of whom will kiss a cross that's been placed on the deceased's chest.

In fact, as I watched from above, feeling, I admit, rather like an unwelcome voyeur, yet unable to tear myself away, an old lady approached the coffin, which as yet hadn't been slid into position inside the hearse, the lid was lifted, revealing a shock of grey hair on the head of the deceased, the old woman kissed the forehead and then set about grabbing the coffin with both hands and mourning in that manner which has a lot more to do with melodrama than actual grief, one could be forgiven for thinking.

I didn't want to post any more shots of all this, since it would go beyond the bounds of sensitivity. Once all this was accomplished, the coffin was slid into place, the hearse's tailgate closed and the whole procession set off, the mourners now having got into a series of cars for the purpose.

Now, this at first made us think, "Ah, so that's why that rather moribund ya-ya was sitting in the lower salon of the boat, all the while clutching to her ample breast one of those red, glass, brass-lidded candle containers (about the size of a vacuum flask) that you see in every supermarket in Greece." The candle was lit too, by the way.

Yet, as the ramp was raised, the boat powered up and we set off to the next stop, which was to be Leros, we looked down the stairs from the upper salon where we were sitting, only to see that the old ya-ya in question was still aboard.

So, that blew that theory then. or did it?

Before I proceed to  Leros, here's one more shot of Kalymnos, taken as we were casting off...

Notice how green the hillsides are.

Approaching Leros, the next stop, I took this shot of the quayside as the boat was backing in to tie up. Notice anything familiar? -

It was almost too odd to be believed, but there, in the exact same position on the Leros Quay as its counterpart had been at Kalymnos, was a hearse in waiting. The same scenario was acted out before my eyes for a second time that day and now we understood which body/funeral the old ya-ya below had been travelling with. We'd had not one, but two coffins on board for the first part of our journey. The second coffin had been wrapped in different coloured packaging from the first one. They wouldn't have wanted to get them mixed up, now, would they?

Now, what are the chances of that happening, eh?

To cheer things up a tad then, here are a couple of other Leros photos...

Beyond is the charming little port of Agia Marina, where we'd stayed many years earlier for a couple of wonderful holidays. Many anecdotes about which are in my first two books Feta Compli! and Moussaka to My Ears.

The Patmos Star, which is based on Patmos, does day-trips to Leros as well as Lipsi, the nearest island to Patmos. Here she was tied up for possibly her first Leros trip of the season. As I type this I can see her along the bay from our balcony here on Patmos.
The building painted pale blue in the second of the shots above is the Tassos 2 apartments, where we stayed during two holidays spent on Leros. It was right across the road from that apartment where there once was the Psistaria (grill house), which I wrote about in chapter 29 of "Feta Compli!" - 'A Family at War." If you see photos of Leros, or have indeed been there, the famous 'windmill on the sea' is only metres further to the right from there.

Exactly on time, we arrived at Patmos, 1.20pm Wednesday May 1st. There, waiting for us on the quay, was our host Suzanna, along with daughter Georgia, ready to pack our cases into the back of their battered old Skoda Fabia, and we were soon (after the regulation hugs and double-cheek kisses) off along the sea front for the three minute trip to our accommodation.

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