The introduction of Jelsa's ubiquitous 'Ej!' pronounced somewhere between 'Eh!' and 'Eh-ee!' is a Youtube hit which earned the 'Professor' widespread fame. Long-lost relatives wrote in from far-flung places like Australia begging for an introduction. And a strong following built up into something like a unique FJD Fan Club, ensuring that Frank John is recognized not only on home territory but in many distant places.
The dialect 'lessons' are the brain-child of Hvar's resident English blogger par excellence (well, OK, so he is the only one, but still, he's earned plenty of praise and prizes for his promotional work for Hvar and Dalmatia). Paul Bradbury has the perfect Mancunian deadpan expression, audible although never seen, to act as a counterfoil to Frank John's exuberance. The first 'lesson' was followed by lots of others, with many different unsuspecting innocents cast into the supporting role as the background against which Frank John demonstrates his skills.
The lessons are planned and rehearsed to the nth degree - ie almost not at all. That gives them the advantage of spontaneity, but sometimes a descent into chaos and confusion. The uncertainty is all part of the fun, helping to fill in the gaps on winter days when so many normal island activities are suspended.
Inspiration and ideas are drawn from all sources, including the wise heads who occupy Jelsa's famous Bench.
On Tuesday February 3rd 2015, the dialect teaching programme reached a new height, probably one which cannot be surpassed, when Jelsa's Mayor Nikša Peronja graciously agreed to take part. It's no mean feat to persuade the Mayor to interrupt his serious duties. Since his election he has worked tirelessly on several very large projects for the improvement of Jelsa's domain, at the same time succeeding in reducing the debt left by previous administrations. His coffee break is seldom an occasion for leisurely idle chat, it's simply a matter of swapping the smart big desk in his office for a tiny cafe table, just big enough to hold the papers he has to read and sign.
The Mayor's projects have included major road improvements, upgrading the rubbish collection facilities in line with EU regulations, and a particular success in securing the first commercial seaplane service in Dalmatia, linking Jelsa harbour with Split airport.
In agreeing to take part in this particular dialect 'lesson', which was devised by Jelkom Director Toni Damjanić, Mayor Peronja probably had in mind that it would go some way towards cementing Anglo-Hvar friendship ties. It certainly is original, pointing out hitherto unperceived similarities between certain Jelsan dialect words and English. And the difference between those words and the standard Croatian versions. Will it make life easier or harder for tourists? It could go either way, but in any case it has made a lot of people laugh, and laughter is the best international language there is.
So, hats off to Blogger Bradders, 'Prof' FJD and OBL, also Toni Damjanić, for bringing sunlight to a cloudy rather dismal day on Hvar! To sum it up with a bit of doggerel:
The man who bears the Mayor's staff
Has shouldered quite a burden,
But still he knows to raise a laugh
And how to get a word in!
© Vivian Grisogono 2015