Manolis's story

I loved Rhodes town so much that I decided to return on my own and stay at the beautiful Marco Polo Mansion. I had made contact with the bubbly Italian speaking Efi Dede and seen the enchanting garden. I had chosen the garden room that 'spoke' to me and booked there and then for my return visit.

I had chosen well as the atmosphere was distinctly Italian. I was 'in' with the elderly owners who came daily for breakfast and dinner in the garden. Their home from home and mine too. It was the owner's deceased artist brother who had created the hotel with input from Efi and her husband Spiros.

First I was introduced to Sergio Borroni a professional cyclist who had cycled through 60 countries and canoed in the American rapids in the outback. He wore a red T-shirt with the image of the bicycle next to a canoe. Black on red.  I also met a retired Italian racing driver called Max Sigara with his chic glamorous wife who dressed for breakfast in dazzling white and wearing expensive flashy jewellery suitable for cocktails by the poolside. Well there was an illuminated fountain at night. I interviewed both these men in the secret garden for my You Tube channel.

There was an Englishman too with his American wife. He was the spitting image of Michael Douglas and knew it! His slovenly sister-in-law would join them. She called Aphrodite of Greek heritage and always wore the same dress every day. She was 'slumming' it round the corner at the hangout for expats called Walk Inn and didn't see the light of the morning. Late to bed but not early to rise. Meditation, the beach, dancing and heavy drinking was her way of life. Not mine.

I was invited to the Walk Inn but did not stay as it was for heavy drinkers with a Greek American called Manolis at the helm running around mumbling to his regulars. I was not too impressed as the place seemed unfriendly, at least to an outsider like moi-meme. However after I read the excellent reviews on TripAdvisor and decided to go back for the excellent pizza, I returned for culinary reasons. Mani was mentioned as he had a story and I wondered what that could be. Never did I imagine that on my last day I would find out!

When I heard there were cheap rooms upstairs and Afro, the drunk, was staying for a month or more every summer, I decided to investigate for my travelling companion Belgian Willy. Also it was around the corner in the atmospheric historic Turkish area from the Marco Polo. The ambience was very laid back, no photos of the rooms, in fact you had to be 'in the know' that there were rooms to rent by the week or month. Mani was certainly not commercial, nor was there a fixed price for the basic but pleasing colourful clean rooms. The price depended on who you were and how Mani felt at the time.

By now he recognised me with an 'Ola kala?' as I walked past and was friendly as he knew I had met at least two of his regulars and was not a day tripper off the cruise liner or a tourist. It's certainly who you know in Greece. I decided to ask about the rooms and, as there were no photos, I thought I would take some and send them to Willy as I felt the ambience was just his cup of tea. I was pleasantly surprised at the cozy atmosphere. In fact 2 of the rooms 'spoke' to me!

On my last afternoon walking past after a fish lunch, I saw Mani with a large English speaking woman who I was introduced to, finding out she was Welsh. They were in deep personal development conversation and I was drawn in. Mani told me he had studied NLP. So had I in the 80s, so we had a point in common.

The day before he said he had an upset tummy as he showed me the rooms. Obviously the drink and Greek greasy fast food!  He gave me the history of the place which was a family business started by his father who was a Greek American who had to come back to Greece as he had fallen off scaffolding in Baltimore and become disabled. His three sons, George and Manolis and another thus opened the unique Inn in 1998. Manolis was the front of house guy and George did the American style cooking in the back. The parents showed up in the morning but I never saw them nor the third brother.

Somehow poor Mani 'dropped out' and not only became a Junkie but also an alcoholic. He knew and confessed at 40 he had wasted his life and was very depressed. He told me he had 'dried out' in a group with the help of a priest in Northern Greece. There, there had been a psychologist on hand and plenty of help including the 12 step programme. But he had failed and had gone into relapse. Only one of the 15 had become clean.

I empathised with him and told him not only the story of my 'lost' years but also how the man in my life Victor had kicked the habit having become a daily drinker of Cuban rum and a confessed alcoholic.

I gave him my card and told him to look up some of my inspirational writing on my website. Writing is healing I told him. He knew and told me of a dreadful experience he had in the Greek army when he was in his early 20s. He had kept a poetic private journal but his captain had found it, read it and before him, ripped it into shreds humiliating him saying it was depressing writing. After that he could not write again, his heart was broken, his pen would not move off the page. He was blocked so he thought, forever, until the group encounter, where he had to write about his confessed addiction every day. Thus he was then released.

He said he had a talent for singing, writing and playing music. I encouraged him to mix with creative positive musicians and relive his lost passion. The poor guy was almost in tears. Was I right or was I right?

I gave him the deadline of 19th May, 2018 when I would be returning to Rhodes to get himself out of his rut, get some new friends and write to me. Suddenly miraculously he had an email address, although his hand was unsteady when he wrote it, and a mobile even though it took him ages to find his own number! He was so spaced out and in La la land ioukd not imagine how he could function to run the Inn.

I told him he needed support. He told me his best friend was on the verge of leaving Rhodes to head north after the tragic rape and subsequent murder of his future wife 2 years ago. He never got over the shock. Mani told me they embraced and cried together. He had no one left in Rhodes to really confide in. His life seemed to be an open book. I told him to stay away from negative people, the ones sitting around his place at all hours of the day moaning and groaning in English or Italian, gossiping, smoking heavily and drinking to excess in the heat of the sultry day. He agreed but then that's the social life he loves,  being a gregarious soul.

He seemed sad I was leaving but I had a flight to catch, a return flight and the chosen peaceful enchanting garden room reservation to make for the next spring and my hotel bill to settle. Practical everyday things outside my holistic bubble of life in a new found haven.

Mani will not forget me and I shall chide or congratulate him in May when I 'walk inn!'

Written at the noisy Rhodes airport waiting for the Easyjet flight back to Gatwick. 28.9.17.