Friday, 18 July 2008

King of the Mountain.

The Neapolitan adventure continues. On Tuesday I went to Pompeii and walked around for hours - such a wonderful saucy place if the frescoes are anything to go by. The ancients seemed to have got living pretty sorted at the time Vesuvius exploded, as well as the houses of ill repute, wonderful gardens, orchards, communal baths, a huge sports arena, an athletics quad, there are two perfect theatres, one for plays and music the other for poetry and song. Never a dull moment!

In the afternoon I caught the bus up to Vesuvius and at a pre-arranged but very polite tourist hijack met the mischievous Andrew Grigori the 81 year old self proclaimed King of the Volcano.

"When the volcano last exploded in 1944 I was 16 years old," he told me in between signing and thumb printing copies for anybody willing to buy a guidebook from his small cafe, "Many of my friends were famished, because the lava killed all the crops. But I was able to find a job as a runner for the chef of a group of English soldiers billeted in Naples. They gave me scraps so I didn't starve and when they moved to Albania I begged and they took me with them. That is why I am called Andrew."

"After I came back, I had learnt eight different languages and for 39 years I was in charge of the funiculara that took many friends to the crater at the top of the volcano, but one day 15 years ago lightening hit the wires and the funiculara stopped. They promised to fix it in 2 years, but this was 15 years ago!"

"Now Greenpeace say they don t want the funiculara - so you see I am a victim of environmentalism and am forced to tell my story and sell postcards." Then he conspiratorially leant forward "Sometimes I sell volcanic rock and tell everybody only I have a licence and if you pick any from the mountain you will be prosecuted... by the court of King Andrew! It s incredible how many believe me!"

"I am very famous and all of the television companies will take my call. They say to me 'Andrew if the mountain rumbles again phone us, only us, ok'"

As we left he waved us into the distance blue thumb on his right hand clearly visible, til we turned the corner and headed for the summit.

No comments: