AmazonsuntouchedEXCERPT OF SUN-TOUCHED

A Dark Comedy  on a Greek Island

by  Theresa Nicholas

1.

From the cold windy deck, I watch the coastline of England recede without regret.  I’ve done it again  Done what?  Escaped.  As if to emphasize my defection, whenever I try to leave my country of origin, there is a strike.  If I am going by train it will be the engine drivers;  by plane, the Traffic Controllers, or the baggage handlers.  This time, because I am driving a tiny Fiat 500 Cinquecento, it is `a proposed strike of Port Officials‘.    It makes the country that fashioned me into that dubious concoction of inhibitions labeled `British’ ,  a cage or  trap, and quite spoils the pleasure I might have in the good things it offers, such as hot baths, kippers and sausages.

Father leaned on the garden gate to watch me drive resolutely away  to Dover, leaving him – a widower – in a village containing 38 widows.   Since mother died, he has become part of the trap. waiting for me to get `this thing’ out of my system and finally settle for the middle-class values and comforts. If they don’t let me onto that Ferry, I shall bloody well swim, dragging the Fiat with my teeth.

On the other side of the Channel, the sun is shining even though it is October.  How is that possible?   I fling back the sunroof, the smell of Gauloise and garlic is reassuringly un-British.   The Customs Official, with the features of a weasel under the hard round French hat, smiles down  at me perkily as he hands back my papers. “Bon voyage, Mad ‘moiselle!”       I am free to take toute directions – but which is the one South –  to him.Does he really exist?  Or is he something I made up to escape from England and father?  No, the proof is in those telegrams the Post Office could make little sense of; the telegraph boy apologized: “They’re querying the text, Miss…”  But they were perfectly understandable to me. “Small mix last night  [he had a fight] Broke my head.  Don’t worry   I fix the Baster.  Com back quick as impossible.  Your love  Tasso.”

His letters, too, are equally unreadable except by the Eye of Love.

     Come back quick as impossible!    That is what I am trying to do with the migratory urge of  a bird…..south…. south….  The roads have the consistency of glue.  Italians driving their own Cinquecento’s  as if they were Ferrari’s pass me at speed, only to slow down to a crawl, forcing me to overtake them, while they leer at me through the windows, and do it all over again.  Basters!  His word for them. He’s right.

Brindisi, a non-place of ticket offices and touts : “You go Grecia? Here Please!   Special price!”   A limbo – or is it a purgatory, between the two worlds of Italy and Greece, where one thing comes to an end before the other has begun.  The Ferry doesn’t leave till 10 pm.

On board, I find myself talking with an American girl, who is  amazed at my driving across Europe.  “Alone?  Without a radio?  I’d get to talking to myself.”

“I did.  I sang too. I would never have got here otherwise.”

“Why are you going to Greece?”    The answer to that  question is:   “To escape an island set in dirty washing up water where you must always say `sorry’ and ‘apologize’ – for an island set in emerald and turquoise, where nobody does anything properly, and never apologizes.”  Why do I feel obliged to mention that  Tasso   is married and can’t divorce?

“You mean you cant marry him ever?”

“Divorce is against the law in Greece.”

“But don’t you want children?”

“N0!   All I want is him.”

She looks thoughtful, “I had a Greek boyfriend once …back in the States.  I really felt good with him… but they can be vicious, yer know….”

*

In the gold of a new-minted morning, the island harbour seems to spin around the ship as it turns to back up to the quay;  a waltz of stucco houses with wrought iron balconies and beige tiled roofs.  This is the moment `which happiness itself will not equal.

He won’t be on the quay – useless to expect it.   He has his own rituals for receiving me, but until my eyes are blasted by the reality of him, I can’t be sure he really exists. As I prepare to  drive off the ship,  Yannis comes on board looking for me,  pokes his head through the car window “Tasso einai exo!”  (Tasso is outside) pointing toward the Harbour Cafe.    So he does exist!  Relief floods through me.   I drive over to the Customs building where the tiresome little men in official uniforms, ask too many questions and look at me with boot button eyes full of sex and suspicion.     The small office is crammed with men, all Greeks trying to get away with something by shouting and gesticulating.  At the bottom of the scrum is the man at the desk.   By the time I get to him, he is banging his rubber stamp onto anything and shouting `Figé!’ Go!             I put my foot on the accelerator and aim for the Harbour Cafe.  I am brought to a halt at the Harbour gate by a young guard raising his hand.  What the hell now?  In slow motion he takes a packet of cigarettes from his shirt pocket and  with the stub of a pencil writes down the number of my car.   I can hear the juke box from the Café  where he  is, blasting the early morning air with ethnic music.   The vibrations probe to the very core of my being, representing everything I embraced when I embraced him.  The young guard puts away the packet and the pencil slowly, regarding me  all the while with a sexual curiosity they give to foreign females – and waves me through the gate.

Tasso is standing in the doorway of the Café,   a very physical presence, handsome and singular, iron grey wire wool hair, a cut over one eye making him look `well-done’ , even  over-done  –   a man well baked in the over of life, wearing his old shirt and trousers, though it is Sunday.  It  tells the world he lives by his own standards and whatever personality can get away with.  This spells out the right message to me.   I bring the car to a stop in front of him.  Without greeting me, he looks at the car I have been to England to get. “So small?”

“Were you expecting a Rolls Royce?”

His lips twitch.  I have hit the mark.   Taking a small dark red carnation from the pocket of his shirt, he hands it to me.

“We don’t need more,” he says.  On an island with only ten cars, a  Fiat 500 is  a  Rolls Royce.  Having anticipated this opening bout of our relationship, I feel myself rising to it with a wild exhilaration – and despair.    We are together again. ~~

 

.                                                                          2.

.                 Giant cypresses, like green flames lead to the house among the orange trees; two rooms above a cowbyre, a table, two chairs, and a bed ‘£ 5 a month, no mod cons,  sublime view.  “We don’t need more,”  he says.

The first year there wasn’t even a cold water tap in the kitchen.  A tin tank hung from a nail over the stone sink.  I carried buckets of water up from the well to fill it; we flush the Loo with a bucket.    From our balcony, I  look down on chickens scratching about; the bantam cock strutting neatly, tail feathers listing like a ship under sail.  Maria’s two children play in the dust by the well watched over by the grandmother dressed in perpetual black.  Maria and her husband show their backs  like dolphins among the vegetable they grow for the market.  Three huge cows are pegged out on the rough grass by the lagoon.    When the sun sets behind the contrapuntal hills, the water of the lagoon takes on the flush of apricot.  But if this is The Simple life – it is not simple at all.  England has made me forget the heaviness of water in a bucket rather than a tap.

“What’s the matter with you?”  he asks, returning from work in the afternoon.                         “Nothing.”   “Then why you have your face like a shoe?”  “Water comes out of taps in England…hot and cold.”           “Oh, I know that,” he says ,though he has never been there. “in four days you forget all that.  What other thing bothers you?” His instinct is unerring.

It is not that water does not come out of taps….. it is the man standing in the field looking up at our windows.   He was there most days before I went away – just standing in the field staring at the house;   he appears only when Tasso is at work.

I saw him this morning,  I have been back only two days.  I tell Tasso about the man.        “I know who is him,”  he says, “He owns this property.  Him a stupid.   I will tell Maria to tell him to be careful – I don’t joke.  If he don’t want to understand that way, I fix him myself.”

He has the habit of hitting any man who loiters near me. It was rather shocking at first.  “Why are you always hitting people?”

“Because it is the only language the Basters understand!”

When I suggest  he is probably a Baster too,  he says, “Of course – this is the reason to know the others.”   Greek logic.

“You must to remember, the people here is very thirsty of the sex, and our story is a little bit different.”   That is an understatement.  Our story is a lot different.

“We are a Big Skandal,”  he says; in which I have difficulty in recognising myself.    “you must to be careful.  The rest I fix .”

The man did not come anymore, and I forgot about water coming out of taps, hot and cold, as he predicted , in just four days.

*

He goes to his job with  the Electrical Company at six in the morning, spending hours at the top of a pole fixing lines, or manhandling transformers up the hillsides to remote villages which are only now getting electricity.  He enjoys physical work,  he has always worked with his body; the surprising thing is that he should be  making the pen and ink sketches he sells to the tourists.  “Very help!”  he says, ” I make more money that way than from my job!”

I used to sit watching him drawing out the sketches, first in pencil and then in pen and  ink.  When he had disappeared on one of his mysterious errands, I took up the pen and carefully traced the pencil lines in with the ink.  When he came back, he just said  “Good idea!   Do more.  That way we have more to sell.”

Soon I could make a passable forgery; now  when he goes to work, I go to work.   At least I earn my keep.  He signs the pictures.  In a community with little conception  of Art, he must remain that mysterious thing: `The Artist‘- `or  we lose the battle,’  he says.

He does the shopping  every morning in the market; it’s  the man’s prerogative. As  their Folk Wisdom defines it:   a man doesn’t want his wife to touch his money, or the Butcher to touch his wife.  He  does the shopping for his  kids as well,  sending it to the house by one of the boys who hang about the market ready to do anything for a few drachmas. He leaves our shopping at the Wine shop. I drive to town to collect it.

The wine shop is an `Everything  shop‘, selling wine from the barrel, loose  honey from the huge tin, Sheep’s cheese, ham, cooked pork, wines, spirits, beers and boiled sweets.  It has four tables for customers to sit and  take a coffee, an  ouzo, or a glass of wine with   Kyria Nitza’s  cheese pies, parcels of philo pastry filled with feta cheese, quickly fried in the little galley alongside the counter.   She and her elderly husband, Mr. Sophocles, keep the shop from 8.30 in the morning till  midnight.  They have one daughter of ten years old, who comes in from school and does her homework at one of the tables, before playing hopscotch on the stone flagged floor.  This is where I collect the shopping, and  my post.   This is the one place in town  where I can sit alone with a glass of wine, waiting for him to turn up and reclaim me. .Women in this society do not sit in cafes or taverns or drink wine.

This is also where I meet Pooter, “Ah,” he says at the sight of me,” I wondered if I should find you here.”  giving  the impression he is on urgent business and can only spare you a minute of his time.   “How was England?”  not really wishing to know, as  he is dying to tell me all that has been happening on the island in my absence.  A retired civil-servant – you could wonder how he comes to be this far south of Croydon, still carrying a brief case in which he puts his shopping.  In winter, he wears a Burberry,  but he has one gift so un-British as to be almost a flaw: he speaks fluent Greek, as well as French, German, Italian, Hungarian, Serbo-Croate and ` just a smidgeon of Russian‘.  The Greeks automatically classify him as ‘A Spy‘.    Pooter enjoys the projected image, licking his lips like a lizard, smiles complacently.  In his colourless way he could be the secret agent on a park bench in Munich, or in a bus queue in London.

He arrived on the island about the same time as I did.  He understands the rules, and at first did not attempt to speak to me, restricting himself to a polite nod when he saw me sitting in the corner of the wineshop.  Then one day, when Tasso was standing at the counter, he asked  formal permission to sit with me and offer a glass of wine.  Tasso consented at once.

“The Greeks do not like you to sit down with their ladies, but if you go about it the right way, they cannot refuse,”  Pooter explained  complacently. “Let me say at once,”  as if to waive any reservations he might have about my irregular relationship, “Tasso is quite the best sort of Greek.  Intelligent, charming and genuine.  A splendid fellow!”   After that, our social hour in the wineshop became a regular event.  He is a rich source of gossip about the few English who choose to live here – all eccentric, “Though I try not to say anything malicious about them  just   because it is amusing,” he asserts, but I can see he has some special news he is dying to impart

“I don’t suppose you have had time to be aware of our newest `arrival’ on the island?  The Honourable Mrs. Tinker-Smith.   The title, as you no doubt know, means she is the daughter of a Duke.”  He says he is not a snob – that he used to be one.

“Does she look like a Praying Mantis?”   As I  walked up the street to wineshop,   I had seen a tall figure  of an elderly woman in a hat, who could only be English. Pooter smirks.  “I must admit that does describe her perfectly.”

“What is she doing here?”

“She has come to live here – because someone told her it’s  as beautiful as the South of  France and much cheaper.  Unfortunately  the Lady was not  prepared for the Greeks.   She finds them rather…dare I say….   you know, I myself am devoted to Greeks, but you could say they haven’t the `je ne sais quoi’  of the French.”

“Why doesn’t she go back there.”

“That is the problem.  Foolishly  she has sent all her belongings here, without knowing if she would really like the place.  Now she can’t afford to go back. She is quite alone.    She has been very rich – her father had a diamond mine in Africa.  What is left of her fortune comes from there   – there are  difficulties there, now.  I feel  sorry for her, so I have taken her under my wing as it were – introducing her to the trades people, showing her ways and means , £100   a month is ample  to live on here….

I myself live on a very small pension, and lack nothing.  No need to go without the little luxuries…if you know the way,”  not  without  a certain smug pride in his economical management.

At that moment, the lady herself appeared in the shop doorway, balanced on high heels at one end and topped off with a little `chapeau’ at the other;  the elongated body in an out-of-date Dior suit with a flared hemline making her look like one of those vintage cars with an extra long chassis – A Lagonda, or  a Huispana Suiza.  On seeing Pooter she cries out, “I’ve bin looking for you every where!”

Pooter punctiliously rises to his feet.  His attempt to introduce me is ignored, her eyes stop short of contact like the needle of a dial fixed not to go beyond a certain point.   She has the face of an  tortoise, though in her youth, she may have been handsome.    “I want you to come to the Carpenter with me. I  MUST have a shoe – box made.  I have simply nowhere to put my shoes….”

Pooter defends himself with his carefully cultivated self-importance. “I cannot possibly accompany you today, my dear lady…..I am giving an English lesson this morning.”

“I thought you were retired?”

“I am retired in the English conception of the word, but here in Greece I am kept very busy teaching English to the Police Force, and I am late as it is.”  looking at his watch.  `Tomorrow, dear lady, I will be at your service, but now, Good day!’  He pays for his wine at the counter and disappears into the street.     Without a glance in my direction, she  goes, too.

 

                                                                           4.

                In the evenings the Wine shop has its habitués   Mr. Babbi sits near the door with his glass of cognac, spelt with a K, (Koniak)’ eyeing  with insatiable  curiosity everyone who comes in to get a bottle filled, discussing afterwards with Mr. Sophocles who they must be related to. Family history and scandal are communal and a source of perpetual examination.  The Music Master comes in for his supper.  He prefers my corner table.  His face registers  disapproval when he see me occupying  it.  A young woman’s place is not in a wine shop.  Tasso secures me this fragile perch in a man’s world;  because of him, my presence is politely ignored.   The music master loosens his muffler to eat his meal of boiled greens, feta cheese and olives, but keeps his hat on;  it is winter.  His lips clamped in a thin line, his shoulders hunched into his overcoat;  Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers  adopt this  desiccated dignity as a cultural distinction,  together with the ill-fitting black suit and the tie.

Tasso collects me at 9  o’clock.   When we have quit the place,  they probably talk about us.  Long ago  Tasso earned the title of `Boheme‘… a Bohemian – adopted straight from the French,   no word for it in  Greek.

Tasso surveys the wet, windy street, deserted except for a solitary figure under a large black umbrella.

Where I going to find money tonight?  We are Ab-so-lutely broke. But …’ tapping the side of his nose, ’I smell some thing…..”

I smell only mutton fat where a man tends the sizzling sticks of meat on a charcoal brazier outside a tavern; the smoke drifts across the lamplight.

“I saw foreigners in town this morning….. ” he goes on musing aloud.  We must to find them….”

Foreigners in winter?   A few drift through the island  like migrating birds en route to the archaeological sites of Delphi, and Olympia.   They gravitate to the cleanest looking Bar or Restaurant, where they hope to find the cleanest toilet, and quickly fall prey to the few locals with a smattering of English/French/German – Tasso predominant among them; all Greeks are opportunists,  it is a spontaneous reaction so that  foreigners find themselves being treated to wine and food and musical entertainment, quite unaware what battles are being fought over their persons.

We go first to the Old Tavern with the  barrels stacked against the wall resting on sturdy racks;  the spigots dripping onto the stone floor leave trails of what looks like blood, as if a murder had been committed there.   A fat lady with red arms and face tends a primitive charcoal cooking range, with a huge canopy over it to contain the smoke.  He orders two retsinas at the counter.

A short flight of steps past a smelly lavatory,  leads up into an inner room with several tables.  From here comes the sound of the  guitar,  a tenor tuning up and  men’s voices wrangling over what to sing next.  That’s Costa, the Carpenter, trying out the top register of his light tenor voice, and Panayoti  on the guitar, the Lorry driver is the baritone; Petros, the “Iron-chested”, is the Bass.   This group  – no women –  spend  their evenings making harmony like drunken bees, or wasps in a bottle, with a repertoire of  local folksongs, Venetian cantathas, Rebetika, and Italian Opera.   No television  yet, and the radio is a ‘Wireless’ enshrined on the wooden counter under a chintz cover specially made for it. This is just the place foreigners get sucked into – this was the first taverna  he brought me to – that  night;  my first and best memories are connected with this place.

There are no foreigners here tonight.  He tosses back his retsina.  We leave.

 

5.

We go on up the street until we arrive in front of an arched door way filled by a cobweb of wrought iron depicting a Salamander over flames.   It has started to rain , he taps  on the inner glass of the door.  A patter of footsteps, the door opens a chink, and Madame Elli’s guttural voice  says,  “Ooo..Tass-oo...Cheri... come in quickly – it is so coo-old…”    At the sight of me,  “You here again ?  Even when it rains?  Mon dieu – you must be in Love…’

Madame Elli : small, middle-aged  (her age is a secret – she could be as old as the Sphinx..)  large nose, shapeless body, neat ankles and feet.  Stories about her abound; her marriages, divorces, her appetites.  She has the reputation of a Lucrezia Borgia on this tittle-tattle island.   After spending most of her life in Paris and Switzerland, she returned to the island after the war,  and opened a bar to have somewhere to go in the evenings. In front of it’s blazing log fire – are the foreigners he is looking for –  I might have guessed  they would be women.           In no time at all,  he is sitting with them

“Look at him!”  Madame Elli cries, “why do you sit here alone…. why  you don’t go there?”

To go there  would be to stake my claim on him.  Anyway , I know him.   When the girls begin to wonder what his motives are, he will produce me like a certificate of hygiene, and they will be more intrigued.

“Darr-ling!”   The moment has arrived.  That endearment lost it’s fragrance very early. It never characterized our relationship, which is based on polarity; now  it serves only to alert me to the fact that he is flirting, though he has no designs on them, except to sell them one of the  pen sketches to pay for our evening.

“You’re British?” their eyes widen,   visibly reshuffling their impression of him, (you mean he’s not a bastard).  They are young Americans  on a  sabbatical, doing Europe and the Near East:    “Boy, have we had some experiences….”   embracing the opportunity to unload them on some one  who  understands their language. “We got this lift with a taxi on the Pello-po-naze…right?    He seemed a real nice guy.  I sat in  front.  Lynn when to sleep on the back seat….suddenly – on a really lonely bit of road, this guy… .” ( Tasso has  gone back  to the Bar.) “….stops the car, turns to me and says, Erotá?    I thought he wanted to go the bathroom, but then the word clicked `Erotá‘… Erotic? Yeah?   So  I shook my head.   Then    he looks over at Lynn on the back seat.  “Erotá?”   ‘No, she doesn’t want it either…”’  He  just shrugs his shoulders and drives on.  When we stop for lunch  he insists of paying for everything. and doesn’t charge anything for a 50 mile taxi ride. What’s with these guys?.  They can be so nice, but  they seem to think foreign women are only looking for sex.  It’s kinda disappointing – you can’t be friends with them.”        I’ve noticed that.

Tasso comes back. “I have so nice idea…. to take the girls to the Paradeisos Night Club. ”  They trust him now and cheerfully pack themselves into the Cinquecento.

“What kind of car is this?  I never saw one so small….”

Arriving at the cottage ‘Night Club’  in a garden of orange trees, the simple room with eight sturdy tables, walls painted in Ox blood, and the juke box. “This is A Night Club?”  incredulous. ” We gotta write home about this….”

Tasso orders macaroni, wine and salad,  goes to the juke box , thumbs the buttons selecting the chorus from the Opera  Nabucco,  Little Richard ‘s “I’m just a lonely Boy” and a Zembekiko.

The macaroni when it arrives resembles the inner tubes of bicycle wheels swimming in   tomato sauce.  The girls are hungry and undaunted by it.  “What do you say for Bon appetit?”   “ Kali Orexi.”

The tables fill up with people who know all about each other and us..  From the old portfolio he always takes with him wherever he goes,  Tasso  pulls out the pictures of sun and shadow, propping  them up on the empty chairs,  makes  his gallery.

“You’re an  artist! ”  the girls exclaim, and look at each other. “Didn’t we say he looks like Picasso with hair!

A bull-mooing comes from the juke box as it regurgitates the rhythms of an ethnic Zembekiko, like an animal in labour.    It pulls  him away from the table into the small area reserved for dancing where he begins to perform the strange solo dance of the Greek male,   an arcane dance like a primordial bird’s.  When he dances, he  exudes  a powerful emotional magnetism, yet it is a private dance, a poetic expression of personality and experience. He never looks at his audience.  Tracing a pattern on the floor with his feet, pausing –  listening to what the music is saying – stretching his arms wide like wings, he  crouches and  rises in a slow controlled turn;  snapping his fingers like pistol shots , he  leans  into the music, his face  contorted with grief which passes into a triumphant egotism.

“I don’t usually go for this masculine display stuff…” says one of  the girls, wiping the tomato sauce from her lips.

“Nor me…” says the other, “but he’s kinda impressive.”

I explain that originally it was danced in the company of men – no women would be present.  It was not entertainment- more a sort of  primitive therapy for the male soul.”    With these simple  movements and gestures, a man confronts the limitations of his joys, defies his burdens and sorrows, and underwrites his individuality.  “No one  applauds.  Needless to say, it has now become a valuable touristic asset.”

“Oh, boy – I can imagine. ”   Suddenly turning their eyes on me,  “How long have you been with him?”

‘Five years…’

“Gee…that’s long time with a man like that….”

                                             So how did I get here?

 

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Some reactions to SUNTOUCHED A Dark Comedy on a Greek Island  Theresa Nicholas.   available on Amazon.

 

“           The central thread of the story between ‘Tasso’ and yourself was quite a tour de force – although he turned from charismatic charmer to monster, it was somehow still understandable why you stayed. He clearly had a kind of life force, albeit a tricky one!   As the story progressed it gathered pace and the end was a kind of cathartic moment. I’m sure in a  way that may have been how you felt?

I also adored the supporting cast –  ‘The Hon’ with her outmoded ideals on the wrong island, Hamish who seemed decent. Pooter, quite the companion and also the bizarre collection of ‘hangers-on’.  “

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“           Quick letter to say how much I am enjoying your book!  It’s so atmospheric, I can see it all.  Last night I read the horrible bit about you being beaten up for the first time – are there more times maybe… you writ it like you couldn’t take it in when it happened and then the feeling that you had some power over him afterwards, for a while at leas. BUT it must have been truly horrible – a moment of revelation maybe?   That actually this was how your relationship would be when he was drunk and jealous, which would inevitably

chip away at your love for him and make you fearful of him – or that part of him which wasn’t the real him .”

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…..I have finished Suntouched and can’t praise it too highly.  I wondered after reading about 100 pages how I could be expected to understand how beating a woman could be regarded as an expression of love and , equally, how a feisty, intelligent, gifted and attractive woman could tolerate such Neanderthal behaviour.  The moral of you book, for me, was the way you unfolded an explanation like a flower coming into bloom!  All the characters came to life in front of my eyes, the description of Corfu (sunsets, countryside etc) were rich with original and captivating metaphor, the chapters were long enough to carry me forward to the next event and short enough to act like gnats to a salmon ( I was kept leaping from one to the next!)  It’s a triumph of imagination and honesty, dear thing, and deserve to sell by the thousand.

The winding road is beautiful. The low sun slanting through the olive trees illumines great patches of emerald grasses between the posturing trees, their silver leaves like shoals of minnows overhead…’      Only an artist could write that! “  Don McClen .

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“           I‘ve just finished Suntouched and found it compelling reading, . Wow!  What a story!….you’ve really captured that feeling of wanting to escape from the greyness of England and its suffocating ways, and plunge yourself into a country of brilliant colours and people with loud voices who don’t care what anybody thinks of them , no matter  what the consequences. …. your amazingly vivid description of his (Tasso’s)  character . – you’ve got the lingo perfectly – I could hear that voice for real when I read it.

Half the time I’m thinking ‘’what an idiot she must have been , to put up with that’, and the other half I’m thinking ‘I really quite envy her, living in a beautiful place where the sun shines every day , with a dishy lover who makes her laugh!’  I just wasn’t quite brave enough to do the same, or maybe I was just too sensible – not always a good thing.”

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“…….a powerful thought provoking book and deserves as much honesty from the reader as the brutal honesty that you have been courageous enough to share with us. I think this story will evoke many different responses from its readers  depending to a large extent on their own life experiences and their relationship with men.   ….One cannot make a superficial response to what I believe is a very deep book.”     ‘

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“I have this very morning finished the SUNTOUCHED and feel totally bereft.  Now what do I do?  Read it again, I think.   I simply love it and haven’t been able to put it down. It has kept me awake beyond midnight and roused me again at 2 and 3 a.m.  I can’t remember having been as disturbed by a book, but not at all in a disagreeable way.   It has haunted my mind all day but with great warmth and affection.  It has so many ‘ resonances’ for me.   As usual the Greeks ‘have a work for it ‘, and when it comes to ‘nostalgia’ they were spot on.  The ache to return but also the pain of returning.

What makes it so good is its utter truthfulness: to him, to you, to Greece, to   Love, to Life.  I love its immediacy – just like watching a film, though the experience is far more intimate – I feel I am there!  The sights, the sounds, the smells , the quirkiness, all the endearing and exasperating aspects of Greece;  large than life Tasso with his inimitable command of English, his gnomic utterances springing from a simple yet profound  grasp of life and human nature, his devastating and infuriating logic that leaves one speechless and defenseless was. Was he a ‘one-off; or an archetype, another Zorba in another time and place?

I think you’ve done a great job, Theresa, and I really think it deserves as wide a readership as possible.    It is beautifully written, it’s humour and insights a real tonic.  I hope it has give you as much satisfaction as it will continue to give us pleasure.

Off the top of my head, my favourite bits are:  The corkscrew hunt, the navigation of Corfu by taverna doors, the first embrace, the rose, what he says to you on pages 126 and 192, the scene in Athens with Antigone and Pericles, – wonderfully cinematographic.

Having finished the book this morning, I had another look at the book of photos and anecdotes you make for him.  What an extraordinary story and what a character.  I remembered the Greek tribute in the obituary as I’d never hear the word before ‘ena pallikari’  That says it all – of course the Greeks would have a word for him.  A word that needs a book to explain its meaning.  Well done, Theresa!  Thank you for a lovely read and all the memories.

 

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You write so well, I want to know what will happen next.  I love your descriptive gems.   You make us, the reader, feel and see what you write.

 

I’m so glad you began later in your story, and then returned to the beginning . If you had not we would not know you won through in the end – don’t forget I’m only on p. 143.  But you did win through!?

 

The next thing, and so extraordinary is that as the story unfold – the many girls, the uncertainties, the Loo’s outside and one tap,  the ‘scandal’, , the people opposing, the huge highs and then huge lows, the miseries.  .. That it is You, my old school friend, the giggler at the WI concerts we did, the shy, with me, friend at the dance at The Hyde,(her family house), the friend I met for suppers in London, both not particularly enjoying our lives at that stage, in fact you hating yours, it is You to whom this unbelievable series of events is happening!!   I get lost in this interesting book and then ‘jerk back to  -’ but this is Tafe I’m reading about. ‘  Of course the Greek music, the ebullient Christo, the ‘wild’ (your word on one page) dancing of you both, is so right for you, the Tafe having I have such supper in London was so wrong.

 

I think the feeling I also have you will understand but not agree with. I have such sorrow   when you are torn into bits at being sent away. ….so awful to have that done to you and the future so HOPELESS  & BLEAK.   But you have had the, to you, unforgettable unimaginable HIGHS with him.  I know you had to have and to go through one to achieve the other.  My horror and sadness at the awrfulnees is not totallay compensated for by the joys and wonders I would not want, and could not cope with, the gypsy, extraordinary, unlawful, lifestyle  you love and accept?   (I’m sure you will expect  and understand that?

Return To The Life and Works of Theresa Nicholas

 

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