One September evening in 2009 Folegandros in the Greek Islands we were in the Chora at an outside table at our favourite restaurant when I glanced across to the party sitting next to us and instantly recognised someone I knew from work.
This was a real shock because Folegandos is a tiny lump of rock in an inaccessible place in the western Cyclades and pretty much the last place that you would expect to bump into someone you know. In 1989 we met some people who lived on our street in Disneyland, Florida and in 1992 we unexpectedly came across our next door neighbour sitting by the side of the swimming pool at a hotel in Menorca. We were surprised by these two incidents but then again thousands of people go to Florida and Menorca but not many people I know have even heard about Folegandros so this was a real jaw dropping moment.
It was the Chief Executive of the County Council and he was with a small group of people. He knew me, we had attended meetings together but although I flashed him a smile of recognition he looked blankly back because although I recognised him he didn’t recognise me disguised as I was in my holiday clothes and with my annual attempt to grow a beard.
I couldn’t help but overhear his conversation which was almost entirely work related and he punctuated this with mobile telephone calls to the Leader of the Council. I found this intriguing because who talks continuously about work when on holiday? Even though Kim and I worked at the same place we had a strict rule that work talk was off the list of things to talk about.
After an hour or we finished our meal, settled our bill and prepared to leave but I was not going to go without saying hello. I wandered across to his table and said something like ‘Hello there, fancy seeing you here’. It took him only a couple of seconds for the penny to drop and I sensed his discomfort immediately. After the initial shock of being interrupted in a way that he couldn’t possibly imagine he regained his composure, said hello and introduced me to his press secretary! There was no way that he was going to be able to explain what he was doing in Folegandros with his press secretary and although with the befit of the consumption of several Mythos I was prepared to continue to chat Kim sensed that it was embarrassing and she led me away, back to the bus stop and to our hotel in the port.
We laughed and giggled and filled in the blanks for ourselves about just what he might be doing here with a work colleague and I decided that we would return to the Chora in the morning because my hunch was that after a night thinking up a good excuse he would be looking for us (it is only a small place) to give us an explanation.
Sure enough, next morning as we scoured the town we came across him after only a few minutes. He had had time to recover from the shock of the chance meeting and he did talk about his holiday and how this was his favourite Greek island, he was interested to know how long we had been there and where we were going next but he never offered any real explanation about his travelling companion and the reason for her being there with him!