THE GOATHERD, THE WRITER, HIS WIFE AND THEIR CITROEN DS - part 5

It was the height that gave him the clue - Vantaris, son of Manousos. In London Gilbert had not considered himself to be tall but on moving here it soon became apparent that he was taller than most Greeks - even the men - sometimes by a head but Vantaris stands nearly 2 meters in his bare feet. Vantaris, barefoot, breaks into a trot and shouts and waves, "Gil, my friend, how are you? Do you have some rope?". He swoops down, lifts Gilbert bodily out of the trough and hugs him tight. Planting kisses on Gilbert's cheeks in turn he puts him down gently and asks again "Do you have rope my friend? In your fortigaki? I need some rope." Gilbert grabs Vantaris by the shoulder, "Wait, wait. How are your parents? You, I can see, are as hale as ever - you remember the word hale? And yes, I do have rope, in the back, behind the barrel". Vantaris hops up into the back of the little truck and Gilbert wonders again whether he wasn't part goat himself - surefooted, agile, and strong headed. Vantaris pulls the barrel that Gilbert uses as a tool box and roots around. "Where is it Gil? Yes, hale - it means I am in exceptional health and vigourous - from the Old English - aha - eureka - I have found it." Gilbert gives Vantaris an English lesson every week in a local cafe and Vantaris stubbornly tries to force Greek grammar into Gilbert's head. They drink frappe and they smoke and they laugh. "The family is well - you know we have a baptism soon? Little Manousos must have his name written in the book of life ..." his head thrown back he laughs ironically. He has a long length of rope wrapped around his hands and is testing its strength "Good rope Gil, you bought it here? Is there more? I need some more."

Gilbert has stepped back into the shade and eyes Vantaris through a pall of cigarette smoke, amazed at the energy of this young man and frankly envious of his rude fettle. "Plenty more - just look - what do you need it for?" Vantaris hops out of the truck and lands like a mature goat - rope in hand. "I have it Gil. Plenty of rope. Good rope too. Come on - you will help me." He drops down beside Gilbert and plunges his feet into the cold water in the trough oblivious of the wasps. "Come, I'll show you.Put your canisters in the truck. I'll help." Gilbert has accustomed himself over the years to this lack of please and thank you - the persistent and regular use of the imperative - but he still notices it. He grinds out the cigarette as Vantaris pulls on his dusty boots and soon they are climbing up the concrete incline to the churchyard, the canisters safely stowed. "Come Gil we have work to do. How is the lovely Becky? She is so beautiful. What she sees in an old man like you I can't imagine." He wraps his long arm around Gilbert's shoulder and seeps him along. A green Datsun truck sweeps past on the road below and a cloud of dust follows it. Standing in the back is a glossy black he-goat - Gilbert can see this much from where he stands.