Jilliana Ranicar-Breese

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Meeting with Strangers #2

How time flies up above the clouds. Five hours flew by quickly on the flight from London to Chania recently in the company of an interesting 64 year old Anglo-Greek. He and his wife had bought a property up a hill above Malame, near Chania, west Crete and was going to supervise a building problem. The house of his dreams which he and his son had designed and were constructing in readiness for his retirement next year. 

Within five minutes he opened up to me about how he met and instantly fell in love with his attractive Trinidadian wife forty five years ago. He had had a fight with his cousin who must have punched him so hard that he landed up in hospital. Trinidadian 'Florence Nightingale' tended him throughout the night. He was smitten and came back two days later to invite her out. He thanks his cousin to this day and three children later. 

He, too like me, was into the art of conversation. He constantly spoke about his beautiful late English mother who had left his father when he lost his seven cargo ships because he was advised not to insure them! The tricks of the trade to avoid tax but in this case advice from the powerful shipping magnates no less. 

His mother had been a constant guest of Onassis on his yacht after she left her bankrupt husband Dimosthenes Kalafatis who ended up being a mini cab driver in North London. Alekos was taken out of private school and the good life came to an abrupt end. He spoke of the famous names who controlled the high seas, Niarchos, Goulandris, Onassis and Livanos. His parents knew and mixed socially with the Greek shipping elite. I was very familiar with all these names as they were mostly intertwined through Tina, the tragic ex wife of Onassis. 

However Alekos proudly told me, while his wife snoozed, that he had done well for himself in life and was happy. How had his adored mother died I asked? She fell out of bed and banged her head on something sharp. I have experienced that too in the middle of the night decades ago. It had taken me a long time to lift my heavy body off the floor back into bed, the traumatic experience was never forgotten. 

We finally landed. Alekos rushed to get off the plane shouting his personal email but when I searched for him later on the net, the photo of Alekos Kalafatis was of another man who did not look like my travel companion. So who knows if any of his story was true but it certainly passed the time quickly and gave me a stimulating evening on You Tube researching the families of the golden age of Greek shipping. 

Written in the Amphora restaurant overlooking the Venetian harbour of Chania - April 2016.