It’s Good to Talk

We were on holiday in a quiet Greek village, staying in the borrowed house of some Greek fiends who have a small holiday apartment on the beach in Halkidiki. Its stunningly beautiful and we’ve been blessed to go there over the years, watching the village grow from a tiny fishing post, through the ‘Brit-years’ when small numbers of intrepid travellers discovered its wonders to its recent status as a commercial tourist spot with huge numbers of holiday makers being bussed in. All of them enjoying what we’ve been enjoyed for years – relaxing in paradise, the local culture and tavernas with crystal-clear waters and stretching beach. Except the numbers now have rather swamped the  solitude and simplicity, but I mustn’t grumble!

Once upon a time we were able to pass the time of day and practice our appallingly bad Greek on willing locals who liked a laugh. Now the local Greeks presume because I’m clearly not Greek, I must be Russian and that makes conversations much trickier all round- unless you are one of the many Russians!

I like talking to the locals. I  also like a variety of company but I don’t speak any Russian. You’ve guessed – I’m an extrovert and energised by being with people but hubby is an introvert, wonderfully complete with his own company and his books. So we go away and have a few blissful days of relaxing and endless UNO (other card games are available!) and reading and swimming and watching for dolphins. And then after those few days on my lovely holiday with my lovely husband I get a bit stir crazy. There is only so much solitude I can take and the itch starts. The Itch to talk to someone new.

There was an abortive attempt to engage conversation with a jewellery bedecked Russian lady as we splashed in the shallows; sadly not able to share one common understandable word between us. Although we did agree by gesture that it was ‘Hot, Phew’! And that it was ‘very beautiful’. Some things are beyond words.

I  returned to the lounger and went back to reading, watching the waves lap and looking for other potential company, even talking to Jesus. (He and I get a lot of time to talk on holiday.) Probably something akin to:

“Jesus I’m having a fantastic time and I’m feeling slowly recharged, but I’d love to chat to someone new. I’ve played backgammon and Uno so often and we have talked over every meal but now I’d like a new person to meet – just while he finishes his book”

Not sure if I meant it as an actual prayer, more of a holy rambling although most of personal prayers are usually less liturgical and more informal.

Anyway roll on a couple of hours and we are showered and spruced up for a wander to the local gyros taverna (Gyros are Greek kebabs and utterly luscious!). We order our feast and start eating and then both stop mid-mouthful –  are those English voices behind us? Simultaneously Hubby and I turn to see another couple turning to us.

‘You’re English!’ we both explain across the tables as the other couple also smiles broadly.

To cut a long story short we ended up chatting, then we ended up sharing a table and we ended up in the local bar chatting ten to the dozen. It was one of those moments when four strangers sparked off and quickly relaxed in each other’s company with no hidden agenda.

Two hours later and we face the inevitable ‘Work’ questions. Directed first to Hubby, as usual, asking what his job is which is always funny as he’s been retired for several years as I carried on working being rather younger.

Then it’s my turn  and so far I’ve managed to steer any potential conversations triggers away from this subject. ‘What do you do Bryony?’

Deep breath (you know where this is going…)

‘I’m a vicar’’

Both jaws drop open (why I’m never really sure, but it is the usual response)

Drinks set down on the table as they exclaim.

‘Well out of all the jobs in all the world you don’t look like a vicar.’

We spent the next hour talking about why I don’t look like a vicar but I really am and  the state of The Church and the world and how God could be God with so much war and evil going on and how the Church has been the cause for every worldly ill since the  dawn of time.

Somewhere on the background I could almost hear Jesus chuckling – I’d been yearning for conversation and for some new people – and here they are; right here and not just that, but we’re in the thick of the deepest conversation about Church and God…In fact, I think I hear him guffawing loudly not just chuckling.

Perhaps I’d relaxed too far into holiday mode, although thankfully not affected by sunstroke or alcohol, but the more we talked, the more the conversation became convoluted. So I took a tactical retreat to the loo to give myself thinking time.

In the loo, I asked for some wisdom. Thankfully Jesus is not worried about coming into the Ladies with me.

‘Who do you think I am?’ that familiar still small voice whispered.

Doh! Simple really. Who is Jesus?

That’s all that matters! Ditch the chats about The ‘Stuff’ of Church hierarchy and ‘religion’ and cut to the hub of the matter.

I wander back and sit down and wait for a gap in the conversation that’s continued apace in my absence.

‘When it comes down to it,’  I suggest; ‘It’s not about Church and all the stuff of religion. It’s about Jesus. Who was he 2000 years ago when he walked this earth, and who is he now?’

A kind of stillness entered the space we sat in and the air seemed to relax about us.

Even the background music tempo thumping from the bar seemed to slow down

‘That’s the bottom line really, what we think about Jesus and who he was and is, that’s what shapes faith and life’.

And our new lady friend said quietly, ‘I used to go to church but I got out the habit andI think Jesus has forgotten about me.’

And our lovely new man friend folded his arms and crossed his legs and said, ‘My dad died when I was 10, I was so angry with GOd so I just had to get on with it alone. I really needed him sometimes.’

And suddenly I knew that this was why we’d chosen to eat gyros that night, in that place, in that village. Amid the olive trees around our table, something very precious happened as Jesus stopped chuckling and held out his hands to our new friends and together we talked about what really mattered

And Jesus held out his hand…

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