Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Dream Comes True for Demetrios

Here's a post I apparently forgot to publish at the time...

Monday, 04 October

We had another 2-hour cruise, past Corfu and toward the mainland, during which Demetrios slept on a padded bench in the salon and I sat outside near the prow and watched everything and imagined what I’d do if the boat should have a wreck. This latter was occasioned by a small traffic jam on the sea. Another ferry was crossing our path from the left and yet another, from the right, and as we all came closer and closer together, it looked very much as if we would all reach the same spot at the same time. I was not the only passenger looking on with some small concern. Each boat honked at the others and nobody seemed inclined to yield. But somehow they sorted it all out and we chugged into port.

Igoumenitsa is a non-charming town of relatively new buildings, meaning relatively drab and ugly, around its crescent harbor. Arriving in late mid-afternoon, we paid 5 Euros for a cab which took us 300 meters to the bus station. We would have walked, had we known. There were no more busses for Thessaloniki today; we bought tickets for tomorrow and went to find a hotel.

We saw exactly 5 hotels in the town and having no reservations anywhere, we chose the 3rd one we came to, the Jolly Hotel. It considers itself a luxury accommodation, boasting in its brochure that each room has its own bathroom, as well as its own television and telephone. My verdict: perfectly acceptable, for one night, provided all you want is a place to sleep. That was all we wanted.

Having parked our stuff, we set out see if we could make Demetrios’ dream come true by finding “the camp.” That is a place where Demetrios, when he was a student, spent a few days, but life-changing days.

At the far edge of town, in the early 1960s, was a United Nations camp, part of UNESCO or something, where English students were constructing a brooder house for chickens. Demetrios was studying English in night school and his teacher mentioned that if anyone wanted to improve his English, going to this camp would be an excellent opportunity. So Demetrios went. And here is where he met, among others, John Coventry. One day John asked Demetrios what he planned to do next in life, and Demetrios said he didn’t know what he’d do after medical school. All he knew was he didn’t want to stay in Greece. So John said, “Why don’t you come to England? My father is a doctor and he can help you find a job.”

So Demetrios did go to England, where John’s father did help him find a job, his very first job, the one in Ormskirk, and you know the rest of that story. That’s where new our English flat is, where we’ve just spent the summer.

John is the one who, at the beginning of every meal at camp, used to raise his fork and say, “Good troughing!” Demetrios asked what that meant, and John said it was like bon app├ętit. So when Demetrios came to England, and the family were all seated for a formal Sunday dinner, Demetrios remembered, and lifting his fork, cried out, “Good troughing!”

He says you could have cut the silence with a knife.

So this campsite was somewhere just outside of town and Demetrios has long cherished a dream of finding it again. It was on the far side of town, as I've mentioned, meaning about 3 miles from the port. We hiked it. Yes, we did. I said, “You do realize your chances of finding the spot are no better than 50-50.” Yes, he realized that. So we walked and walked and walked along the waterfront, resting on park benches along the way.

And we did find it, too! We came to a spot where Demetrios felt fairly sure the camp had been, although now there was no sign of it left.

But it so happened that acouple about our age was passing by, so Demetrios asked them, and sure enough, they remembered the camp and said it had been just here. And the building where the English lived, the man added, had later become a hostel for poor travelers. It had been torn down in the late Seventies or early Eighties.

So we walked along the beach where Demetrios used to teach John Coventry Greek, and I picked up two stones from there for souvenirs for Demetrios, and he, not seeing me do it, picked up two of his own, so now we have four. If we ever meet any of those campers again, we’ll have a token to give them.

Igoumenitsa is full of bars and coffee bars, but there are only two proper restaurants, and it took us a lot of walking indeed to find one. We finally did and had a nice meal and then, back to the Jolly Hotel. On the way, we passed a place selling loukoumades, Greek doughnut holes. They’re dollops of batter, deep fried and then sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon; and they’re favorites of Demetrios. So we stopped and bought a dozen, of which he ate 7 and regretted he hadn’t bought more.

“Tomorrow,” I said.

Again we were glad to get to sleep earlier than usual.