“…The bar is always a good place to stand at a disco. You can enjoy watching people without getting involved. I’d created a rule a year ago, when I first isolated myself on this little island to concentrate on making fine art. The rule was that I had to go for one night out to the island disco at least once a month. This kept me in contact with other human beings, albeit remotely. The monthly night out was enough to remind me of what I wasn’t missing out on, in the big City of my birth.
The sabbatical, as some of my friends viewed my rush to isolation, was to spend a year away from what they called reality. I saw it more as a voyage to discovery, to find a life that was worth living, one other than buying stuff that I didn’t need or want. The last twenty odd years of my life I had used my talent for Art for personal and family financial gain and to secure the archetypical semi-detached home, two cars and holidays abroad, all of which conformed to the consumer capitalist system, a system I’d always disagreed with and believed was doomed for failure…
… It was when the twelve hour day and the six day working week started to grind me down, and I finally divorced from my wife, that I’d simply cut and run. My work colleagues suggested I’d had a nervous breakdown, a good excuse perhaps for forsaking my responsibilities, but that wasn’t true at all. In fact my nerves were very much intact.
I’d decided do come here to Aegina, a tiny island in Greece, to re-examine ‘life’ – before being ground into the dirt. Gaining my freedom from the UK society dictated that I owed it to myself to find out who I really was. And if I had any value as a positive and contributory human being, let alone a creative person.
My plan was simple. Give all the unnecessary possessions away and become a full time Artist. This was all in a bid to re-invent – or maybe – re-discover the person I used to be when I was an innocent kid at Art school. Similar to how Paul Gauguin had run away to Tahiti over a century earlier. Like him, I knew you couldn’t run away from yourself. Hence my monthly rule of the disco visit. Then one night, suddenly and without much effort, the process of rebuilding a new version of myself began in earnest – And, as is normally the case, it came with a sudden system shock.”
it was midnight at the Disco…
…I was stood at the bar nursing the last drops of my whisky chaser when another drink appeared on the bar. “That’s from Nektarios.” The barman said as he placed the glass in front of me. I looked over and a grey haired man was lifting his glass towards me. “Cheers”. The man shouted over the music. I responded back. “Cheers, good health.” Hoping that would be the end of that, apart from perhaps from the social gesture of buying him a drink in return. Nektarios had other ideas. He walked over to join me at my side of the bar and held out his hand. “What’s your name my friend.” He asked with a smile on his face. “Denis” I said politely. “Oh to be young again, eh Dionysus.” (the Greek version of my name) He said looking at the disco dance floor, which by now was completely full of cavorting drunken holiday makers bang-at-it on full throttle. “How old are you?” He asked.“Too old to do that.” I said pointing to the dance floor. He smiled. “Time, where does it go? Now there is a conundrum.” I smiled back at him and gestured that I simply didn’t know. “I mean, what makes today more real than yesterday or tomorrow?” He looked at me for an answer, but I had none. “Is time passing you or do you pass time? If you pass time, can it be slow or fast.” He said smiling again. This old guy never gives up, I thought. “Somehow I don’t think it’s possible to achieve the control of time.” I said and sipped my whisky and then a mouthful of larger beer directly afterwards. “For sure it is, children do it all the time.” He laughed and ordered two more drinks despite my protestations that it was my turn to pay. “It’s like knowing how humans see what they see, even scientists cannot explain how or what a human sees. We only see something which has meaning for ourselves.” That intrigued me as an artist. Do I paint something for others to see? Or do I paint for myself to see what is in my brain?
“Yes it’s an interesting conundrum, what You see and what I see.” Nektarios said with a knowing wink. “It’s like thinking.” I looked at him. “Well, obviously you think with your brain and you see with your brain.” I said, he looked at me and placed both of his hands flat on the bar. “Not so, Dionysus.” He said shaking his head. I began to think that I had played into Nektarios hands by offering a point for discussion.
“The brain is a tool to control the body, that’s it, it has nothing more to do with thinking.” He said emphatically. I decided I owed him a quick discussion, seeing as I wouldn’t be allowed to buy him drink in return for the ones he had already bought for me. “Really, so what do you think with, if not the brain?” I said in a calm educated sort of way. “You should use the ‘mind’ for thinking and let the ‘brain’ get on with the rest.” I looked at him a bit confused. “Not sure what you mean.” I said and smiled. “Ok, let me see how I can explain this to you.” He ordered another two drinks and by this time I was feeling unsteady on my feet. I decided to try and sober myself up by taking deep breaths and skipping mouthfuls of the whisky, which I am sure was stronger than the one I had originally been drinking.
“Take the moon. Now you can’t fit it into your brain, but with your mind you can visit it and walk on it. In fact you can fit the whole of the Cosmos into your mind, quite easily. It isn’t a question of seeing the moon with the brain, it’s another form of thinking, more like feeling with the mind. Do you see what I mean?” He said. “Err, I think so.” I said feeling a little dizzy, either by his philosophical concept or the alcohol, probably the latter. “In a way it’s the same as seeing. Your mind constructs the image it wants to see. Sometimes that’s good and of course sometimes not so no good. It depends on what you are feeling at the time. Your emotions govern what you see, not your brain, I think so, don’t you?” He said perhaps questioning his own reasoning.
I ordered two more drinks and Nektarios accepted that I should pay this time. “Well Nektarios, it’s been great chatting, but I have to go, early start tomorrow.” I said. “Ah, yes, early worms also catch the best fish.” He said and we both laughed, but for perhaps different reasons. “Just remember this my good friend, there are only three real things in the life.” He then stopped to take the last of his whisky and I joined him. We simultaneously put our empty glasses firmly on the bar with a thud. “And what are they Nektarios ? I asked him. “Infinite time, God and Angels. All the rest we humans make up as we go along.” I tried to get away and he grabbed my hand to shake it and wouldn’t let go until he had a final word of advise. “Now, go home my Artist friend and on the way stop to look at the moon, feel it, walk on it and roam around the cosmos for a little while, talk with the Angels and God and tomorrow you will be a new man.” “How did you know I was an Artist.” I asked him. “Ah ah, I know everything on this island my friend. I own the Disco and much more.” He said and winked at me. “If you need anything, just ask for Naktarios.” I thanked him for his kind offer and made my way to the disco car park and my old Jeep.I was glad I had been wise enough to install the canvas roof on the jeep before I had gone on my monthly the night out. The evening sky had promised a heavy down pour of rain and it had kept to its promise. The sky was now even clearer than it usually was, as if the rain had washed away the dust created by the sweltering month just past. I climbed into my jeep knowing it would take time for the old girl to kick into action.
After a few stutters and back fires she started and her old frail frame vibrated from the engines efforts. I put on my driving glasses and looked at the sky and decided to take a long look at it from the vantage point of the old abandoned town that was located on a natural citadel in the centre of the island. The road climbed in a snake like fashion up the mounting, it was a road I knew well. I set off from the village looking forward to prove Nektarios theory, that I could walk on the moon and roam the universe with just my mind. Besides, if nothing else the fresh night air would do me good.
Half way up the mountain I must have fell asleep at the wheel, only waking to feel the jeep tumbling off the road and into a black void. As it fell I held a firm grip on the steering wheel. The jeep began to roll as I felt pressure on my shoulders. I rolled with the jeep yet remained fixed to the seat. Over and over in slow motion as the jeep and I rolled together. It was as if if time had slowed down to enable me to remain calm and in control of my body mass. The jeep reached the bottom of the abyss with a thud. I stayed in the car checking myself for signs of blood, of which there was none. I stepped out from the car as the small cloud hiding the light from the moon gave way. The moon rays hit the car to reveal an absolute wreak. The roof was caved in, as was most of the other body work of the jeep. The only part that was free from damage was where I had been sitting. I looked around and realised that I and the jeep had dropped onto a plateau on the side of the mountain. It took more than twenty minutes for me to scramble back to the top of the road. I stood on the road wondering how I had survived the fall, still unsure if I was alive or dead. I looked up at the stars and the moon seeking confirmation of my existence. As I was looking up, and seemingly from nowhere, a white transit van stopped and the drivers door opened.
“Get in, we shall take you home.” The young man said. I climbed in without question. “You are Ok now.” A young girl said who was sat next to the driver. I looked at her and nodded. “Yes thanks I’m fine, shall I tell you where I live. ” I said in a calm and collected way but obviously confused of how I was not dead. " We know where you live Dionysus.” The young man said and smiled. The young woman brushed dirt from my face with a soft tissue. “You will need to sleep.” She said to me smiling as the van pulled up outside of the isolated and remote villa I had rented. I couldn’t understand how they knew where it was, few of the locals did. I stood on the dirt path of the house and the young woman and the young man waved to me as they drove back up the dirt road and into the blackness of the forest. I went into the house and headed straight for my bed where I instantly fell asleep.
The next day I awoke fully dressed and sweating like a pig. It felt like midday and the sun beamed into my room. Dragging myself to the fridge I grabbed a carton of orange juice to quench the thirst of excess alcohol intake. I then undressed and dragged myself into the shower. The cascading water on my head and body confirmed to me that I was indeed alive and maybe everything I had experienced was in reality just a dream. Wrapping a towel around myself and grabbing what was left of the orange juice I walked onto the veranda carefully placing my sunglasses on before going out into the sun, which was high in the sky. I became convinced of the dream theory and smiled to myself at the wonders of the subconscious. The jeep going off the mountain, the slow motion, how I had survived without a scratch, the Ford Transit and the two young people who had delivered me home. Perhaps it was that talk I had had with Nektarios that had become the basis for the nightmare scenario. I walked around the patio towards where I usually parked my Jeep fully expecting it to be there, but it wasn’t. I looked around. It wasn’t anywhere to be found, not even the sign of any tire tracks on the dirt road at the side of the villa.
I spent the rest of the day wondering if it had all been real. Had I slowed time down.? Had God saved me from destruction? Had I been delivered home by two Angels in a Ford Transit van? Over the next few days the local police found the Jeep 300 metres down the side of the mountain. They took me to where it lay and wanted me to verify that it was mine. One of the policemen asked if I had driven it over the cliff, I told him that, apparently, that was the case. I never mentioned the two angels in the Ford Transit van. He asked me to sit in the drivers seat as he was curious how I had avoided any damage. He watched as I placed myself in the drivers seat.
The metal frame of that held the canvas roof had imploded and circled my head to within millimetres. The Policeman recited something in Greek and began making the sign of a cross from first his head, then right and left shoulder and then his heart area. He did that three times. It was at this point in time that I spotted my driving glasses on the dashboard. And there wasn’t a scratch on them. I lifted the glasses up in triumph to show the Policeman, who by now had been joined by the islands crashed car recovery crew, who I found out later worked for Nektarios. The policeman spoke excitedly to them all and some stood staring at the jeep, whilst others knelt next to it crossing themselves the way the Policeman had moments earlier. This was probably not the best time to tell them how I had been taken home by the mysterious young couple in the white van, so I told them that I had walked back to the villa on my own.
Days later I began to create a painting that changed my life. I painted it with a belief, one that I had embraced after my experience. One that has remained with me all these years. A total belief in the absolute reality of the creative force of the cosmos. That painting I placed in one of the church’s that remain standing on the mountain of the old town (Palia Hora on Aegina)- It probably is still there, but I’ll never forget what Nekatrios told me. “ that only three things in life really exist. Infinite time, God and Angels – everything else we humans make up.” – I think he may well be right!