Grandfather: near Argos, Greece 1946

The bearded stranger had a grandfather (well, two in fact but we’ll focus on the one who travelled more). The grandfather travelled very widely, and wrote lots of books on his travels between the 1930s and 1960s. There are many extraordinary tales and encounters in the books, and a few stories which fit the criteria for the bearded stranger’s stories. Here’s the fourth – and thankfully he didn’t also have a beard so he is just ‘the stranger’.

The stranger arrived on his bicycle while we villagers were celebrating our village’s saint’s day. He was introduced to me, the priest, and when I found out he was English I went to the musicians and warned them to be ready.  We invited him to join our feast. This was nearly ready, but was sadly impoverished.  The war had ended last year but, even after the Nazis had left, we rural Greeks were still suffering from poverty and political troubles. We were roasting a single skinny goat on a spit, its entrails draped around it to provide extra sustenance. A huge pie of nuts and honey was being baked for the children.

The older villagers knew how much we Greeks owed to the British for liberating us from the Germans, and many went over to him to say thank you and listen to what he had to say about the state of the world. After lunch the musicians, two fiddlers, played traditional tunes and the men and women danced, as energetically as before the war. When I gave a signal to the fiddlers they stopped playing the dance music. The villagers had also been warned. In honour of our visitor, two hundred Greeks stood in reverent silence as the fiddlers started up the tune they had heard the British troops play as they marched through to liberate our region: Roll Out the Barrel.