In 2006 I visited my father while he was holidaying in Greece. Holidaying is probably not the right word. He went there to live. He was absorbed in the village life, loved walking through the agricultural fields and spending time in the market town, going to the banks, sorting out business issues with his lawyer and accountant. Then before he headed home to the village he would stop at the Grand Cafe under Chestnut trees and sit in the shade, nursing an American coffee and some water, catching up with whoever passed by. He knew so many people in that town, having spent a few weeks a year there for the last forty years.
When I visited him there in 2006 I gave him a gift of a digital voice recorder which had the capacity to store two thousand hours of speech. My father loved talking. I remember him using a micro cassette recorder to dictate letters while he drove us to grades school in the seventies. He could talk to anyone, of any standing in life. He would strike up a genuine conversation and become involved in that person’s life. He also made speeches and was passionate about formal speeches. He collected all of these, neatly typed, in a file and stored them in the strong room at his office. Many of these speeches are typed, and were delivered flawlessly in three languages: Greek, English and Afrikaans. Some of them were delivered in all three languages, with him switching easily between mother tongue and adopted languages. They reflect his endeavours and achievements within his community, at SAHETI, of his involvement at his children’s’ school and his ability to motivate young people.
So I asked him in 2006 to dictate about his life, and who he knew, and what he had done, so that I could write the story on paper and leave a book for posterity. And his grandchildren, whom he loved dearly. I thought the last reason was a good one and would motivate him to talk to the electronic gadget so that I would have a record.
But he never dictated in to that machine for me. After he died I found it in its box, unused with no message other than the one that I had recorded on it for him.
After he died in 2008, I committed to writing a book about his life. At least I said this to one of his friends ad confidantes, George Bizos.
Three years later, after a few writing courses and some magic I am getting started. I write a daily conversation about my father on my blog. These conversations are the building blocks of that book. And this is the opening chapter for now, until something better is written.
This story starts with a tragedy. Tragedy almost has its roots in our village of Kakouri, Arcadia. Tragedy that was perfected to an art form and performed at the nearby ancient amphitheatre of Epidavros.