18 June 2006

PSALM TO PSAILA

entrance to the british cemetery corfu and house of caretaker, george Psaila, MBETo Dad's grave to honour this important 25th anniversary.

As soon as Mum and I enter the well-kept oasis of beauty and calm, I'm once again overcome with anger and embarrassment on behalf of caretaker, George Psaila, who single-handedly maintains this resting place for the Euro-dead of many nationalities.

british cemetery, corfu, entrance viewYes, not just Britishers are buried here. Indeed, there's a whole separate section for Germans.

And not a widow's mite set aside to recompense the septuagenarian George for his efforts or to find him an assistant for his 24/7 devotions.

The sign on the gate lists sensible hours, but there's a phone number to call for visits "outside normal hours".

The bottom line is that George and his wife welcome visitors round the clock and people take advantage of this.

gravestonesI've given up counting the books and brochures that direct people to the cemetery and list it as a must-see attraction.

From the sublime to the ridiculous:

  • Victoria Cross listings
  • Message boards
  • Find-a-grave links
  • Even the The Great Shakes bar, for goodness' sake ....

    In Just Greece talks of how:

    "Just south of Platía San Rocco and signposted on the corner of Methodhíou and Kolokotróni,the well-maintained British cemetery features some elaborate civic and military memorials.

    It's a quiet green space away from the madness of San Rocco, and in spring and early summer is alive with dozens of species of orchids and other exotic blooms."

    Travel & Leisure salutes the man himself:

    "Supervisor George Psaila, born on the grounds in 1927; his father, one of many Maltese settlers, had been the cemetery's caretaker before him. Mr. Psaila led me past rare wild orchids to a marker honoring 44 British soldiers lost at sea when a mine exploded as they were returning from World War II.

    Equally moving was the loyalty of dozens of expatriate Brits who wanted their remains laid to rest here.

    One man engraved his wife's headstone with 'Good Night, My Love, I'll be along later."

    Brave sentiments, but I wonder how much actual dosh swanned along later by way of appreciative gesture to George for his lady's des. res. resting ground.

    lady holmes and george Psaila tending sir ronald holmes' grave (1913-1981)I've heard the figure of 1,000+ for expats currently resident in Corfu. Certainly, those I've met natter confidently of being buried here, praising the desirability of the cemetery and George's hard work but keeping fingers well clear of their bulging purses.

    quiet moment for marjorie holmes at her husband's grave, 25 years to the day since his deathThe Visitors' Book bears witness to the emotional impact on visitors from every European country. The measly few coins in the collection plate bear equal witness to the disgraceful lack of impact on these Psaila Marners' money belts.

    Closer inspection of the grounds shows where people have enjoyed picnics among the hallowed stones and then blithely pissed off, leaving their crap all over the place - in some cases, according to George, *literally* their own waste.

    I can't think of a single government official or tourism representative who has faced up to the subject of contributing to the garden's upkeep or support for George. What would be so difficult about placing a collection box next to a single-page history?

    sir ronald holmes' grave, british cemetery, corfu, greeceOf the myriad guide books and travel agents who direct gawpers here, not one seems to think that an offering might be in order.

    Our less than proactive local tourism operation is happy to boast it among historical and sightseeing delights but lifts not a little finger to devise help for George to carry on providing fodder for their blurbs.

    lady holmes arranging flowers at sir ronald's grave on 25th anniversary of his death in corfuI'm just as bad: I stand around in posh salons tutting with the best of them and agreeing that something should be done as I eye the host's daughter or covet their bottles of the good stuff tucked away behind the Leigh Fermors.

    I should be hammering out a bleating piece for The Corfiot, to be submitted when next I tug at the hem of Ms Whitton Paipeti's garment.

    Having thus vented thus, I now expect some starchy official to crawl out of the woodwork and point out how clause A or B forbids such extravagance, or how Graeco-British Treaty C covers exactly this sort of horticultural entente cordiale , except the actual budgeting  fell foul of Gordie's last hatchet job.

    A senseless act of social suicide is called for, and I'm the man, my reputation in tatters anyway from blasphemous cavils against that fatuous treadmill dubbed "gardening".

    I shall compose a 'Hurrican'-style song to be sung at every smart gathering and Saints and Remembrance Days, to the effect that,

    "All us ex-pats with our flip-flops and thongs,
    Free to drink ouzo at poolside singalongs,
    cymbalWhile there's George Psaila with rake and hoe
    Tending our Loved Ones, all in a row."

    TSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHH

    Clash of cymbal and wail of sinewy fiddle.

  • 3 comments :

    quinner said...

    I read your story on George Psaila of the British Cemetery in Corfu. I sent a letter to him c/o British Cemetery, Corfu, Greece on April 14/08 Registered mail but the letter came back today undelivered May 28/08. My g.g.uncle died at Corfu in 1850 and is buried in the cemetery. He was the surgeon for the 16th Regiment of Foot stationed in Corfu and died of cholera, I have the wording on the stone and thought that George might send me a picture of the stone. I have a desire to visit Corfu, your article gave me further interest but in the meantime if I could be in touch with George to have him look into the stone in the graveyard it would be great. If you have a way to be in touch please let me know. My email is quinnlouise@sympatico.ca a\
    Barry Quinn
    Burlington, Ontario Canada

    Anonymous said...

    Please update your readers Mr Corfucius.
    With your help did Barry Quinn of Canada make contact with George Psailis of Corfu?

    Busker said...

    No idea who managed what. I went with GP thru the cemetery and it is chaotic. No idea who is where.