With the funeral and cremation over in Barrow, my thoughts returned to our beloved Elounda. My only thought was to complete everything in the UK so I could return with Johns’ ashes within 40 days. This may sound strange, but here it is traditional to have memorial services on set occasions after the death.
I knew there was no way to be back sooner, but it seemed likely that I could be back in Elounda to hold a 40 day memorial at the lovely church Constantine and Eleni in the village. That became my driving force…
With the aid of my family, we began to unpick the disaster that is all the legality when someone dies. John was a clever, shrewd man, and as a result had made things as simple as possible – leaving me as a Director of his company and the sole beneficiary of his estate – straightforward, right? WRONG! As we soon discovered, the Bank (not named, but starts with an S and comes from Spain originally) decided that although I was listed at Companies House as director, as they had not been told, they would not allow access to the business account. This meant that all outstanding bills couldn’t be paid and hence the company not closed down. They then blocked John’s personal account as in their wisdom, the 2 accounts were over maximum value without probate.
Now I KNOW that there have to checks and balances, but HOW ON EARTH can an account for a business, with funds that are owed to HMRC and the VAT offices, suddenly be a part of someone’s personal estate? To say I was angry would be an understatement! So, in just a few days, I became penniless and distraught, having to go cap in hand to all the official bodies and professionals that John had used, to apologise that their bills could not be paid.
Thankfully, the Chartered Accountant – Stephen Leonard – was amazing, and even helped us to employ a solicitor – Martin Turner. The mortgage suppliers – NATWEST – were absolutely star and refused to badger in any way, just asking for updates. As for my sons, well, I really don’t know how I would have got through it all without them.
I threw myself into clearing the apartment where John stayed, and trying to pack as much as possible to bring home. John, Bless him had been gathering bits and bobs for me and for our shop, so they all had to be packed. My eldest son Owen and my youngest Martin began to claw their way through all the red tape, and middle son Simon was always there to keep my spirits up…as it became clear that this was not going to resolve anytime soon, I became more and more depressed that returning to Elounda was slipping away…then Big Brother Hughie came up trumps!
He, I think had been expecting some issues, so when we spoke on the phone and I told him what was going on, he immediately said ‘don’t worry, I’ll lend you the money to go home and get going’
I have amazing family!
So, leaving all the chaos for the boys to deal with, I planned my return to Elounda…
All the usual suspects were on hand to help with everything for the memorial + help from the many friends Greek and Ex-Pat that we have here. We managed to speak to the Pappas and, although Cremation is not recognised by the Orthodox church here on Crete, they agreed to open the church and allow us to have a gathering there at the 40 day mark – Friday 28th April.
From the early morning, local people who knew of our intention started to go and light candles for John. I was amazed at how many there were! At the appointed time, many of us gathered at the church, all wearing something Green as I’d asked, and I made a short speech to thank everyone for their kindness and for coming out.
A brief Eulogy about John; his life, our meeting and his family was given, and we all made our way to the bookshop for a funeral ‘tea’. So many faces, so many lovely words about my beloved john – he had touched so many with his humour wit and ready smile…not many had anything good to say about his singing however (which didn’t surprise me) or his joke telling (more groaners than gigglers!). Many stopped to look at the photo which sat inside the door, with a candle beside it and a lovely carved red, heart-shaped stone which was a gift from Monika at the shell shop.
The day was exhausting but also uplifting…to know how much people respected and loved John gave me some solace – but the worst day was to come
The final adieu…
A select group of our closest friends were invited to come on a small boat to scatter John’s ashes on the Bay of Elounda. Now, JR would have found it highly amusing that on the Sunday morning it was blowing a Hooley and white horses cover the sea! Not being a good sailor, the only boat he never got queasy on was Demos’ from Sunrise Apartments; but going out on it looked dubious and many of us commented that he was messing with the weather! As arranged, we all made our way down to Sunrise, only to find that the boat was not available after all! At this point, my John would have be laughing like mad!
Anyway, between us all, we decided to walk over to the far side of the Causeway and say our farewells there. About 20 gathered beside the water, and everyone was offered a chance to say a piece and scatter the ashes on the water. When all had done, I waded out and said my own farewell to my beloved John. The wind whipped the ashes away across the water and they disappeared into the foaming waves.Several of the ladies had brought flowers, and our close friends Bjorn and Aase had brought a floating wreath, so these were sent out onto the waves. As we watched them sail across toward Spinalonga, we sang Auld Langs’ Syne, and some visitors who had observed what was happening joined in (for which I thank them).
Then to one of our favourite spots – Alyggos, and took over the outside seating to have a proper wake. This continued for many hours- with a smattering of Irish jokes (thanks Paul Dunwoodie!) A better send off for I could not have hoped for! He would have appreciated the humour, loved the stories about himself, the talk about music ( and rather bad singing) and the laughter (and tears) that it brought to all who came to add their own recollections.
So, John was away over the Rainbow to go and see our old dog Les,
and I was here, in Elounda with a bookshop and a life in tatters. Now I decide on my future and the future of our dream to live and work here at the newly relocated Eklektos Bookshop…hard choices to make for the first time on my own…within a day I began to wonder if I could truly go on without the love of my life and whether to return to UK…
But that’s another story for another Blog…