It can be laughable, annoying and sometimes downright dangerous.

One of the things about living in a small village is the inability to get away from gossip, you can’t fart here without everyone knowing about it.

Obviously being one of the few foreigners here, I have been the focus of more than my fair share of gossip, most of it about as far from the truth as you can possibly get. Thankfully when I was first here (when I can imagine the gossip would have been at fever pitch) my lack of language meant I couldn’t understand most of what was being said, so it didn’t bother me. Now I am less likely to be gossiped about, I’m not sufficiently interesting but on the odd occasion someone sets off a story involving me, they are usually so silly as to be laughable.

Sadly that isn’t always the case, sometimes gossip can be cruel and (possibly unintentionally) harmful.

Yesterday Neu came home and told me rumour has it, that the son of one of the fishermen from the Compescal V who drowned in the recent tragedy, was so distraught at his father’s death that he suffered a heart attack and has also died. I asked Neu if this was believable, what if any were the facts? He said that as I knew full well, people here are keen to kill everyone off, there didn’t seem to be any facts, just talk that the son came here to witness his father’s body being brought back to the beach and when he got home, he had a heart attack and died.

I believe and sincerely hope that this is nothing more than a piece of silly gossip (I certainly can’t find anything about it in any of the local papers on-line) but I CANNOT understand why some people seem to garner such delight in making the tragic events of a person’s life worse than they already are!

When Neu was very ill, he became the focus of gossip that was to him (in his very fragile state) very painful and it came at a time when he could really have done without it, he felt that people were literally willing his death. Some of the more vicious rumors were that:

  • his illness was fatal and contagious. If he went down to the beach, some people would walk away as he approached, fearful of catching his disease (Neu has chronic kidney failure, it’s not contagious).
  • He had fallen from a ladder and not expected to survive his injuries (don’t ask!)
  • he was at death’s door in a hospital and suffering from some un-known infection with no hope of recovery (even when he was actually at home).
  • he was permanently wheelchair bound (I think he was in a wheel chair for about 2 minutes at the hospital).

The rumours spread so far that even people who live in other communities informed us they had heard about Neu and were surprised to see him up and about. Initially Neu was extremely sensitive about these ignorant stories but thankfully he had enough good people about him and their concern and care diminished the negative effects of the tittle tattle.

The many rumours around his dialysis treatment were so far-fetched that it beggared belief that anyone could justify repeating them but they were so ludicrous that Neu began to see the funny side. Some of the stories we heard were that:

  • Neu had to stay in a room in which everything had to be wrapped in plastic and no one else was allowed to enter.
  • Neu had to be wrapped in plastic (kinky!).
  • Only I was allowed to touch him.
  • The nurse at the clinic who was a friend of mine was paying for Neu’s treatment (the nurse has become a friend but she roared when I told her that one, if only she earned enough money to pay for someone’s treatment! It’s paid for by the health department).

Realising it was pointless being upset and, being the eternal joker that he is, Neu began to play on it, getting me to paint one of his toe nails silver and telling people it was a necessary part of his treatment. Once the gossips realised he was playing games with them, the gossip miraculously stopped.

Perhaps the gossips have missed their calling, they could be writing scripts for the ever popular soap operas, one or the other of which can be found on TV almost 24 hours a day, where ridiculous sagas are wrung out for weeks on end.

Of course gossip isn’t always negative, good news gets spread by gossip too, yet even passing on good news can have an element of spite about it, Neu and I refer to it as the FIRST TO KNOW syndrome, which seems to be another vital part of being a gossip.

When my sister-in-law (who lives next door to us) went into labour, she left for hospital in the pre dawn hours, accompanied by her friend who was her birthing partner. A neighbour heard them as they passed and proceeded to telephone them every 20 minutes for news, ensuring she was the FIRST TO KNOW when the baby was born.

As soon as she as she got the details, our neighbour left her house and went down to the beach (still in the early hours but people get up very early here) telling everyone she met on route about the baby, she did that before going to tell my mother in law (who also lives next door to us) that she had another grandson, having effectively ensured that my mother in law had no one left to pass on the news to because she was one of the last to know. I’m not saying the neighbour did it maliciously but she must have known my mother in law would want to tell people the news, THE FIRST TO KNOW syndrome makes some people behave like this.

Neu refers to his mother as “The reporter” she is more than happy to pass on a story or two and also suffers from the FIRST TO KNOW syndrome, imagine her distress when she discovered that everyone already knew about her grandson. My mother in law didn’t even have the satisfaction of telling me, that shocked her, she was sure that I wouldn’t have known because I’m so uninterested in gossip that I rarely know what’s happened or what’s being said about whom. However on that day I had been in the garden at the crack of dawn and had been told the news by our neighbour as she went off on her broadcasting mission, worse still from my mother in law’s point of view, I had (inadvertently) been one of the FIRST TO KNOW!

Neu and I laugh about the FIRST TO KNOW syndrome, gossip can be so silly that it’s funny. It can also, as in the case of the fisherman’s son, be sick and is so often, as in the case of Neu’s illness, based on ignorance but it can also be vicious and have unforseen and dramatic consequences.

I read earlier today of a disgusting and terribly sad story from England  where gossip led to the dreadful killing of a disabled man. Two men will be sentenced next month for his murder but what about the person who started the rumours that ultimately led to the poor man’s death? One can only hope that person has enough of a conscience to be tormented by it.

Gossip it seems to me, is like an addiction, an illness, is there a cure?