Was it Bette Davis who said growing old is not for cissies? Well, whoever it was they couldn’t have said a truer word. My handwriting has been deteriorating for some time and has now become virtually illegible. It’s a scribble I can’t even read myself. So hoorah for a keyboard! Except that now my fingers are so stiff as I sit here I am finding it even difficult to type. If I lose that ability completely, well… let’s not even think about it. This stiffness is a strange turn-up for the books because up to now my hands have been so shaky (hence the illegible writing) that holding a cup of tea without spilling any is not easy. And because of the rat poison blood thinner I take every day (Sintrom) the skin on the back of my hands has turned black and I have leopard spots all the way up my arms. It’s not helped either by the skin being like tissue paper and should one of Wagner’s claws when playing accidentally get me that means a scab – once the blood has stopped flowing - and there are a number of them. Pretty isn’t it? Pretty it is not.
Health! Now suddenly I have developed edema and it is not only the feet that are horribly swollen and ugly but the legs have doubled in size with the amount of fluid. This is not good news. I have also reached that time in life when I can suddenly lose balance and go toppling over and once you start to topple there’s no stopping it. It’s like dropping a bottle of milk and watching it in slow motion as it descends to shatter on the floor and there is nothing you could have done about it. And the worst aspect of it is that once down it is almost impossible to get up unless there is something, like a peace of furniture for example, against which one can use the strength in the arms to hoist yourself up because there is no strength in the legs and one is floundering like one of those beetles on it’s back unable to turn over. Some years ago an ex-pat, Arthur, originally from Yorkshire, (spoke Greek with a Yorkshire accent) was telling us he was reluctantly leaving Crete and going back to the UK because his wife had died and he had reached the falling over stage, Eleftheria’s late mum, Maria had a couple if falls which meant a broken pelvis and after being discharged from the hospital she was still in terrible agony. Chris and Douglas used to go over to help Eleftheria put her to bed: siga, siga; slowly slowly, every little movement so painful. Once she was in and settled that was it for the night, there would be no more movement. When Maria died we went over to the house for what I suppose one could call a sit-in. Coffee, wine, tsigouthia, biscuits, etcetera were available and there were a number of ladies seated around the open coffin and every now and again one of them would talk to the corpse as if she really could hear her. That was the first time and we have attended others since. In Crete once you’ve gone you are put away pretty quick, no hanging about. Then according to the Orthodox Church you start your long forty day journey to meet your maker. In our little corner of the world there have been six deaths which is not surprising considering they were all in their eighties. Agathe just down the road is hanging in there at 96. Her sister, Anna, one of my very very very favourite ladies of all time also had a fall that proved fatal. Unfortunately we were in Athens at the time and by the time we got back Anna was already gone. Hers was a corpse I could have talked to without feeling foolish. I still miss her dreadfully. Growing old is eventually a problem for most ex-pats because most come over here already at retirement age singly or as a couple and when one of them dies what happens to the one who is left? Especially if they have failed to integrate into Cretan society. I am not in the least bit religious. To be honest I am an atheist plain and simple; when you’re dead you’re dead, but that doesn’t stop us from taking part in certain aspects of Cretan life which usually involves the church in some way or other. Jesus is everywhere on this island. It never ceased to surprise me while I was still mobile enough to get to the church that at Easter, the most sacred time in the Greek calendar, we have been the only ex-pats at the midnight service year after year. Christ is risen. He is truly risen. Kiss kiss. And we carefully walk home with our candle lit by the holy flame all the way from Jerusalem (?) and mark the sign of the cross on the door lintel. We tie a bunch of wild flowers on the handle of the front door every first of March. And if the young papas wants to bless our house with a sprig of basil and holy water, even though he knows we’re not orthodox, why not? It’s not hypocrisy if it gives him some satisfaction.
We have two lesbian friends, beautiful people and I don’t necessarily mean physically, who have been together for 45 years. They have had this big house built with swimming pool and a beautiful garden the size of a small park and the time is coming when they will have to think on what happens when one of them goes. They want me to write something in ‘No Official Umbrella’ but if they leave it much longer it won’t happen. As it is I would have to get someone else to write the dedication and scribble my signature beneath. I am extremely fortunate in that I have not one but two who watch over me with love, diligence and a great deal of patience. They cannot be thanked enough. I am also thankful that whatever ailments I suffer at the moment none involves pain.
Talking of books, monthly returns from the printers both in the UK and the states informs me that ‘Celluloid & Tinsel,’ the penultimate Thornton King adventure has hardly left the ground. A round robin was sent to all friends, acquaintances, and associates but it seems they’re not exactly in any rush to get their hands on a copy. What does one do if even friends can‘t be bothered? Am now polishing number six which will be the last in the series, but six is a nice round number.