. . . . . . . The road ran through the centre of the village and was just wide enough to park vehicles along one side without impeding the passage of others. Access to the rest of the village was gained through alleyways and narrow lanes. Graham leant against a wall to get his breath back and noticed the blue Mercedes belonging to Manolis, Stelios’s son, parked a few metres up the road. Suitably recovered, Graham started to walk up the road towards the taverna. He had worked up a good appetite and was ready to enjoy the last lunch of his holiday. Graham had only walked a short distance when, Stelios appeared from the opposite side of his son’s car. He brushed himself down, removed the gloves he was wearing and put these along with the tool he was carrying into a pocket on the inside of his jacket. Stelios then looked cautiously round him, his face filling with horror when he saw Graham only a few metres away. Graham waved and called across the street, “Γειά σου Στέλιο.” (Yassoo Stelio) ‘Hello Stelios.’ But Stelios did not reply, instead he nodded his head in an awkward gesture of acknowledgement and walked briskly off up the road, turning into an alley and disappearing from view. This was so unlike Stelios who always stopped for a chat or, at the very least, passed the time of day. Graham concluded he must have been doing some minor repairs to the car which, for some reason, caused him embarrassment. Maybe when Stelios came to Tο Fanari that evening, he would explain what he was doing to the Mercedes.
Graham enjoyed a lunch of grilled octopus with a tomato and cucumber salad together with bread and a glass of lemonade. He took his time and listened to the villagers sat chatting nearby, while trying hard to understand the odd word or two. Graham’s command of the Greek language only stretched as far as ordering food, drinks and the groceries he bought regularly, along with some simple phrases that enabled him to have a basic conversation with the locals. Lunch finished, he took a bottle of water from the chiller to drink on the walk back to town and paid his bill. Setting off down the road and out of the village, he passed the Mercedes and again wondered what Stelios had been doing.
When Graham walked along paths in the countryside, apart from stopping periodically to take in the vista, he needed to look down to make sure he didn’t trip on a stone or stray rock and to keep a lookout for snakes. But on tarmac roads, like the one between the town and Prinos, he could look freely around him and take in the beauty of the surrounding area as he rhythmically swung his legs back and forth. He wondered if Katerina, more commonly referred to as the ‘goat woman’, would be around when he passed her small farm nestled in the fertile valley below. On previous visits, if she spotted Graham, she would call up to the road and ask him to come down for a cup of her goats’ milk. Her home was a cobble of bits of wood that had been nailed to a frame, with the door hanging at an angle. Outside was an old sink she used for washing food utensils and clothes. Whether she washed here as well, or in the stream running along the bottom of valley was anybody’s guess. One thing for sure was; washing did not feature regularly in her daily routine. She cooked over a wood fire and the smell from this, coupled with her own odour and that of the goats gave her a distinct aroma. To the side of her home, she had constructed a three sided wooden shelter. This was set within a corral, providing a refuge for her goats during the colder months. Graham had never seen anyone living such a basic lifestyle, one which must have been damp, cold and downright miserable during the winter. Despite her living conditions and poor standards of hygiene, Graham never refused a cup of goat’s milk. Invariably it had the odd piece of goat hair floating in it. He admired Katerina who enjoyed her solitary life in the valley, but who also liked to see and talk to people from time to time.
The road leading down towards the town had been cut into the side of the mountain and hills. With sharp bends and no safety barriers, drivers needed to take care. If they misjudged a bend, there was nothing to stop them going over the edge and down into the valley below. Shrines positioned on the road edge, in memory of those who had lost their lives, along with the remains of contorted and bent vehicles in the valley below, bore testament to the number of accidents that had occurred. Most of the locals drove down the middle of the straight stretches of road, moving over and hitting their vehicle’s horn when they approached a bend.
Graham had walked about a kilometre down the road and was not far from Katerina’s farm, when he heard a vehicle approaching from behind. He couldn’t see it because a bend blocked his view, and for some reason the driver was not sounding the horn. Graham could tell, by the noise from the engine and the tyres on the road, the vehicle was coming at speed. He tucked himself into the edge, where the road had been scoured out of the rocks, and as he did a car hurtled round the corner. It was the blue Mercedes and although he had not seen Stelios’s son, since he was in his early teens, Graham assumed it was Manolis at the wheel. In his efforts to try to control the car Manolis had no time to sound the horn. As the Mercedes sped past him, Graham could just glimpse the look of horror on Manolis’s face. He watched as Manolis steered towards the rock face, in what Graham presumed was an attempt to slow the car by running it along the jagged uneven surface. But the car was going too fast; instead it bounced off the rocks, . . . . . . . .