Andrew's story

True or fiction? We all gathered together for the evening's entertainment, the last night at 'Cortijo Romero' in Orgiva located in the mountainous Alpujarras in the province of Granada, Andalusia.  Each of us were to perform a poem, in my case a 'Spoken Word' vignette, a song or a piece of music. All 15 of us had our unique talents and were to entertain an audience from both the writing and movement courses of about 40 people.

At the end, an impressive, large, commanding, good looking gentleman got up to speak. Andrew was his name, public school educated and well spoken. He was in my course run by the play writer Diane Samuels who turned out, I discovered, to be a third cousin of mine through marriage coming from Scouselandia. Another creative Liver Bird like moi-meme!

Andrew, always with his head in an intellectual book, was very well read and an excellent writer of great depths and imagination. He said in our class he was writing for his grandchildren. In fact he was always mentioning them but never his children. We had met the year before in the Rosie Jackson poetry course when he had just retired at 65, having sold his industrial plant for an undisclosed fortune and bought a Harley Davidson to travel around Andalusia on the road to his new found priceless freedom. His road less travelled, perhaps, or was it?

You could tell he had great experience in public speaking just by his confidence and stance. I could envisage him as head of the board making a speech to his shareholders. Andrew casually leaned against a chair and began his 'performance' watching his audience attentively.

He opened his 'presentation' before his actual story, by talking about people with similar disabilities who would stand near to each other in a crowd having an unsaid, silent recognition and making direct eye contact. He gave a couple of examples and it was obvious to me he had told his story before as it had a beginning and a middle but an unclear confused ending, in my opinion as a writer. 

Andrew claimed to have had a stammer when he was younger but I heard no trace of it. I could empathise with that as I too had suffered from a stammer during my 'lost years' and for 9 months at least if not more, had difficulty getting beyond 'I' at the beginning of a sentence. I was fascinated and also by the fact that he spoke projecting his voice without a single 'Umm.'

He continued on effortfully to say he was in the navy as an officer? I don't recall. Anyhow he was approached by a branch of the Foreign Office to deliver some important documents to HQ in Serbia, the former Yugoslavia, before the country was divided up. He did not go into finer detail which I would have preferred and made me think afterwards that there were a lot of pieces missing in his jigsaw story but that was not to be the crux of his captivating story.

He was captured in Serbia and the vital British documents confiscated. He claimed he was tortured but did not go into any details. He was then taken into a room with 3 stiff, unflinching military Serbian officials who grilled him. It was unclear if all this happened in English. Was Andrew a British spy?  While he was being tortured, he noticed a 'softer', less aggressive younger Serb observing but who remained silent throughout his drawn out ordeal.

Andrew was immediately sentenced to death without a trial. Hands tied, not handcuffed, but not clear if they were behind his back or in front, he would be shot in front of the firing squad the following night. There again he was unclear but for most of us enthralled listeners, no one would be thinking about the consequences and the smallest details like a writer would. During the interrogation, Andrew's stammer had returned as he confessed to us, he feared for his life.

The next day Andrew, still with hands tied presumably, faced the firing squad with a younger Mr Softy in command who was to give the final order to shoot. The two men faced each other eye to eye. Mr Softy shouted 'one', then a pause, looking ill at ease, a long drawn out 'two' but could not say 'three' as he was stammering badly still looking directly at Andrew, their eyes locked, silently pleading for him to run away into the night.

According to Andrew, he escaped in the ensuing confusion, through the woods or was it over a cliff?  This bit was not clear as he spoke rapidly to his audience. He just kept on running expecting to be shot but were his hands still tied I asked myself? How did he manage with the language in the war torn country? How did he survive during the complicated and horrific Yugoslavian war and get back safely to England his mission unfulfilled?

Andrew, however, had made his point about the eye contact and empathy,  thus he left the 'stage' after a rapturous applause, outshining all us other performers. He was a brilliant storyteller, and he knew it!

Outside, by the pool, he was congratulated, surrounded by several enthusiastic, adoring middle aged women. However, when I tried to ask him a few direct detailed questions about his escape, he pushed me away irritably. He  knew instinctively, as a writer, that I didn't believe part of his story or perhaps all of it. He knew, as a story teller myself, I might have hit a nerve. There were pieces in his jigsaw that just didn't fit. But what a story! I have never met anyone condemned to death and I'm sure that I never will again. Andrew quickly excused himself from the clawing women and fled into the tranquil night and sanctuary of his room. He had had his moment of glory and was satisfied. It had been a night to remember past and present.

The following morning, after an early breakfast, the previous evening was forgotten as people were concentrating on departing from their holistic bubble, going their separate ways, hugging and kissing people goodbye. Smiling, Andrew waved with a white handkerchief but without making eye contact to those of us in the departing coach going off to Malaga airport, standing by his pride and joy, his greatest love, his Harley and the road less travelled.

 I, however, never forgot his intriguing story and wonder if his grandchildren will ever hear or read his fascinating unforgettable story written?  True or fiction?

Written on the noisy old catamaran going and returning from Rhodes to Halki in a day on 26.9.17.


Google - Cortijo Romero
Google - Orgiva
Google - Diane Samuels
Google - Rosie Jackson
Google - Stammer
Google - Umm
Wikipedia - The Yugoslav wars
Wikipedia - History of Serbia