Discovering Greece’s Secrets
It’s what friends are for. I said I was looking for a new direction. My best friend Kate sent me a link. I received it one midnight just before heading for bed (checking my emails against all the sleep hygiene advice). It promised an answer to all my prayers: A business in a Mediterranean island was looking for an English-speaking partner to show tourists around. The only requirements – an outgoing personality, a willingness to take the leap. How exciting. These are my best (only?) skills! Plus having grown up on the Mediterranean, the warm sunshine, stony hillsides, and the smell of oregano and pine resin are exercising an ever-stronger pull on my heartstrings. I sent the business owner an email straightaway. I hardly slept.
The following morning, there being no reply, I rang his mobile number. The voice at the other end was warm and intelligent. I’m your woman! I declared with the kind of swivel-eyed certainty more usually observable in Tory ministers and Alan Sugar’s apprentices. “I hear you,” chuckled the voice. “I will reply to your email. But the connection isn’t great up here, so be patient.”
We exchanged a couple of emails. I’ve never tried online dating, though I have flirted with unmet contacts on email (yes bosses, that is what your staff are doing. It’s human nature). But this was, like football, more important! At stake was not a latter-day sophisticate’s loss of heart and dignity, but all the rest of my little life. So when, in his third email, Stuart stated the obvious – that no amount of emails is an adequate substitute for a meeting – my mettle was tested.
I swallowed hard, booked a passage for two weeks later, and told Stuart. We e-negotiated: where to stay, what to expect, the exit strategy. It charged the emails with heavy significance. It led, for me, to many more drafts, but also to a frankness that is, ironically, rare even with good friends. Ask whatever you like, wrote Stuart. But what should I ask? I replied. The only questions worth asking are deal breakers, and I’m desperate not to break this deal!
I arrived without mishap on a glittering, late June afternoon at the jetty of a dusty, one-storey waterfront of a classic Greek island, badly sleep deprived and dearly wishing that this stage of the adventure were already over. Would I- would the deal survive it?
Stuart was lovely. The island was lovely. My room – sparse but with an amazing view and no neighbours – was lovely. But the business was gone. That’s what you hear about Greece. It’s lamentably true. So I ended up having a great beach holiday. But what about Stuart? I was disappointed. He was bereft!
He did what you would advise: he wrote a book. It reveals the secrets of his beloved island. His business having been run off the road, this is tourist hosting by other means. Defying the dogs in the manger who tried to crush him.
In the box: Discover Hidden Naxos is available from www.hiddennaxos.com