Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Lovable people

In the middle of Thursday night when I couldn’t sleep, I got out of bed and went downstairs, made a cup of tea and repaired to the jigsaw we’re currently working on. It’s set out on the kitchen table and the picture is that famous one by the American artist, Edward Hopper – Night Hawks and on Thursday night this felt very appropriate except that, unlike in the painting, I was the only person in this immediate vicinity who was awake. Paul as normal was fast asleep.

Whatever is it that accounts for a bad night? Some people I know have lots of them. I generally don’t. But when I do – and, alas, I think they’ve become more frequent both with chemotherapy treatment and getting older – my mind fills up with all kinds of stuff.  Things I might write, jobs I might do, people I must phone … the list becomes quite endless because on these occasions my mind also begins filling with memories.

Last night the memories were of one time when Paul and I were on holiday in Corfu. We’d rented a little house right by the sea and we’d hired a scooter to get about. The house was lovely, the sea was warm and, my goodness, we slept well. But one of the best things was when we were visited by the mother of the woman who owned the house. That woman lived on the Greek mainland. Her mother, Mama Katerina, (as she insisted on us calling her) and her husband Vasilio (Βασιλείου)  would come to check out the house and, as if by the way, to see that we were alright and have a chat. They were the kindest people.

Why Mama Katerina  came back to mind in the middle of last night was, I guess, because of the figs we’d been brought by our plumber during the day. He had come to resolve an annoying drip and the figs he brought us were from the fig tree in his garden. In Corfu, when Mama Katerina  came to see we were OK,  she’d pick a fig from the abundance that were growing  in her garden, open it out and then, more often than not, throw it away in a determined gesture. If the fig wasn’t exactly right, she would  certainly not be offering it to Paul or to me.

Like Mama Katerina  Vasilio  spoke almost no English. Paul and I spoke no Greek beyond polite greetings. Yet how well we all got on. Vasilio would write out Greek words on cigarette packs for us and when we’d somehow established what they meant, we’d write out the English words for him. What fun it all was. The two of them, husband and wife, are brightly stored in my memory. I hope they will stay there as long as I last as people full of simple, kindly love who would do anything to help you and who really enjoyed a bit of simple company.

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