THE PIRATE AND DONALD SUTHERLAND

The next post will be on or before Wednesday 18th July

THE PIRATE AND DONALD SUTHERLAND

I can usually tell Canadians from Americans but failed to do so recently. There was a large extended family of transatlantic tourists arrived in the Paradisos Café in the port yesterday, and they ordered huge and pricey breakfasts of omelettes, crepes and chocolate and cream covered waffles, thus keeping the staff feverishly on their toes as they raced up and down, to and from the balcony. Most prominently, there was the couple in their late 50s, she strikingly handsome and fair haired, he with a pirate’s kerchief on his head and a likeably comic provocative manner. They were accompanied by 3 friendly girls aged between 11 and 14, and a bulky and earnest man of about 30. He was impossibly young to be the Dad of all 3, but on the other hand if they were the children of the couple, they were all conceived in the woman’s forties.  The only feasible arithmetic allowed the young man to be their son, so Lord knows where the lovely kids came from. The girls were all crazy about the café cats and petted and took photos of them on their 3 splendid smartphones. Less explicable was the behaviour of the pirate husband who wandered into the cafe interior and approached the counter as if he wanted something badly. I was inside drinking coffee, and as there was no one around I walked into the kitchen to tell Maria she was needed. When she asked the quirky buccaneer what she could do for him he smiled a quizzical challenge and denied any need at all. He was just looking, he said, and then repeated the mysterious phrase. Just looking? Where did he think he was, John Lewis’s New Year Sales or the Hellenic equivalent?

Far odder than that, was that he disappeared from the café altogether for about 20 minutes, leaving the others on the balcony. When he arrived back and stood at the bottom of the balcony steps, he grinned paradoxically at his wife, then lifted up the kerchief to disclose a dramatically shaved head. The wife and the three girls all laughed and clapped their hands at this surprise tonsure, for evidently he had gone into the nearby hairdresser and had an impromptu makeover. I had no idea what his head looked like previously, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d had a thick and dense mop of curls, and had capriciously decided to shock the world today, or at least one of his worlds. Replacing his kerchief, he then strolled restlessly across to me and pointing said, ‘This guy is having his fix!’ the reason being I was currently enjoying a bottle of prizewinning Fix Beer, as manufactured here in Greece. His tone was friendly and not at all confrontational, and I smiled at both him and his wife. She walked over to where I sat and looking at the cat on my lap asked me about Asproula or Little Whitey, the beautiful snow-white stray who has adopted me as her favourite handy seat as of 4 and a half years ago. She used a strange expression and asked me was she a ‘communal’ cat. It is an amiable enough phrase, but implies the whole community might have affectionately adopted Asproula which is far from being the case. The Greeks tolerate but on the whole dislike stray cats and do nothing to encourage them. So street cats or stray cats is by far the more accurate representation of Asproula and her colleagues’ existential reality.

“Where are you  from?” I asked the handsome woman, expecting to hear Oregon or Philadelphia or Chattanooga.

“We’re from Toronto.”

I stared at the pirate’s beautiful wife, surprised, even abashed. “I always thought I could tell Canadians apart from Americans. I think it must be the first time ever that I got it wrong.”

At which she smiled with a most natural and expansive kindness, as if to say what did it really matter. But then I went on hurriedly, “I wouldn’t care, but I’ve been thinking a great deal about Donald Sutherland lately, and he’s a Canadian.”

Again she glanced at me with an infinite tolerance, as unabashed by my bizarre and random comment, as she had been by her husband’s all or nothing and I now decided confrontational haircut (take it or leave it cos it’s me and it’s a fact). She didn’t bother to ask me why I’d been thinking so much about Sutherland, as if indeed it was the most natural thing in the world for everyone in creation to be ruminating about the remarkable actor.

I could have told her it was because I had been watching Sutherland for the umpteenth time as Casanova in the eponymous Fellini masterpiece from 1976. The range of the man’s acting there is quite simply beyond belief, for he goes from tender to quizzical, to arrogant, to humiliated, to grief stricken, to farcical, to narcissistic, to besotted, to suicidal desperation, to a calm and very final tranquillity, and to all else in between. And yet, naïve as it might sound, he is after all just the one man representing just the other one man of history.

I didn’t tell her any of that, but instead said doggedly:

“Joni Mitchell is Canadian too. Isn’t she?”

She chuckled uncritically at that, and said yes indeed Joni was. And then she shouted up for the kids and for the bulky, smileless man, and she and her jaunty pirate of a husband set off at the front in the direction of their yacht.

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