Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sights and Sounds of Athens

It may be one week too late, but yesterday I decided to go down into central Athens and Panepistimio to see for myself what exactly has been happening to my city for the last week. I took a bus that should have taken me all the way to Omonia square, but was stopped at the last set of traffic lights before entering central Athens.

"These f*cking police, they didn't even tell us they'd be closing the road." muttered the bus driver as he let his passengers spill into the road and reach their destinations on foot.

I joined a scattering of people heading towards Syntagma and felt my heart start to pound the closer we got. I wanted to see Athens, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be prepared for what I would see. In the end, it seems to me Athens bounced back better than anyone could have predicted.

It was eerily quite on the walk to Syntagma Square. Athens looked as it does on any other day, until closer looks revealed broken glass on shop fronts and graffiti everywhere; "ALEXI, THIS NIGHT IS FOR YOU" screamed a red sentence from a marble wall. Near the parliament, I saw the battered marble slabs that a protestor had been caught smashing on camera earlier in the week to throw at riot police.

At the square itself, a few hundred people had gathered to observe a peaceful sit in the memory of Alexandros to mark one week since his death. The crowd was very varied; small children, old hippies, smartly dressed middle aged women and of course high spirited teenagers.

There was a lot of broken glass, but not that many burnt out shops, but then again the worst of the incidents hadn’t taken place in Syntagma.

Athens is a schizophrenic city. I have never seen Syntagma square so quiet, despite the people gathered there, and yet one road away, on Ermou street, business was brisk as Christmas shoppers darted in and out of shops that were either unaffected by the riots or have been quickly fixed to make it seem so.

If you looked down Ermou street, it could have been any other Saturday afternoon – shoppers, well dressed women clutching gigantic Attica Stores bags, street performers. If you turned and looked towards Syntagma, you realised that something was amiss. The square was cordoned off, and the burnt out Christmas tree already dismantled. A few curious guests had gathered on the balconies of the Great Britain hotel to observe the goings on below.

The people who were doing the best business of all were the illegal street vendours who for once in their lives were looking relaxed as they lined Ermou from top to bottom with blankets displaying their wares. After all, for the time being the attentions of the police lie elsewhere.

I continued on towards Panepistimio and it was the same story there, except here almost everything was shuttered and closed. Once again, lots of broken glass and scars of where Molotov bombs had hit the ground, and the evidence that things had been bad around here was that despite the fire damage not being very visible, the whole area had a lingering smell of burnt petrol.

Akadimia was not much different. A young woman holding her Christmas shopping approached me, “Do you know when the bus will come? We’ve been waiting here for so long.” I told her it was best to try the metro as the police had closed off roads without letting public transport know. She thanked me and walked away.

I contemplated going on to Exarchia, but didn’t see what good it would do. I had come armed with nothing except a notebook – no candles or flowers. What good would it do to go just go and see the spot where Alexandros was killed, like some sort of misery tourist?

It was nearly 4, so I decided to head back to Syntagma square and join in with the protest for a while – after all I’d spent a week watching the protests from the comfort of my sofa, so it was the very least I could do.

Nearing the square, I passed a brigade of riot police. “Do you remember that time when we were at the Athens Albania football match? Hey man, I said do you remember that time when…” traffic swallowed up their words as I walked away, wondering what was so memorable about the time when they were at the Athens Albania match.

At the Square I mingled with the crowd and looked at all these young people who had come out in the cold weather. A few were handing out leaflets. Others sat in groups here and there. A group of girls with multicoloured hair began to sing “Always look on the Bright side of life.” A young couple kissed. There were flowers everywhere: clutched in hands, poking out of backpacks, braided into hair.

A group of men had gathered in a small circle and one of them was giving out stickers that read PLEASE KILL ME, which the gang was gleefully sticking all over their clothes. A teenage boy walked past, talking on a mobile phone in English “Well, there’s a lot of things we want to change…”

Some teenagers sitting in the middle of the road produced a guitar and began to pass it round and sing songs. Black candles were produced and carefully lit in the center of the gathering. The teenagers draped themselves over each other in that casual way that teenagers do. They looked so full of life, so hopeful and so determined. The atmosphere was quiet and peaceful, and I hoped for their sake that it would remain that way.

As I began to walk away and head towards Syntagma metro, I overhead a very telling conversation. A cameraman with his colleagues dug his hands into his pockets and said “Come on guys, let’s pack up. Everyone else is starting to leave too.” His colleagues said it was better to stay a while. “What’s the point? Nothing’s happening. The station doesn’t want this. They won’t run it unless something happens.”

Such a sad fact that riots with Molotovs and burnt cars make better news than a sit in with flowers and candles.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Dam Breaks
















A shockingly small white coffin emerges in a sea of young people dressed in black, and applause goes up to say a last goodbye to Alexandros-Andreas Grigoropoulos, the 15 year old who was shot dead at point blank range on Saturday night by police in Exarcheio.

Staggering behind the coffin were the parents, crippled by grief, and his mother who could barely stay on her feet. Her son had called her to tell her he had reached the centre safely, where he was celebrating the birthday of a friend. A mere ten minutes later, she was told to rush to the hospital where his life ebbed away for absolutely no reason.

And Greece erupted. The generation of Alexandros, tired of a government that has refused to ease their frustration, fed up of working their fingers to the bone and still being the first generation to be worse off than the one that preceeded it, dispairing at living in a country where it's not what you know but who you know and hopeless at watching their parents dig deep into debt to provide them with degrees that turn out to be meaningless, has finally boiled over in anger.

If anyone hoped that the three days of riots would let up soon, the images from the funeral of the teenager are likely to set things off all over again.

Despite throwing my hands up in frustration at the hot headedness of the Greeks who like nothing better than having a strike or a riot, this time I am completely backing the young people who have taken to the streets in anger.

No one has listened to their voices, and now they are lashing out in the one way they know will finally get everyone's attention.

Whatever really did happen on Saturday night, one thing is clear from the eye witness accounts (unfortunateley for the police, there are several and they all concur). Alexandros and his friends got into an argument with two police officers in the bohemian district of Exarcheio. There was no baying mob as the police claimed. Shots were fired, supposedly in the air, and an unarmed teenager lay dying on the road as the two officers calmly walked away.

I've been to Exarcheio, it's one of my favourite parts of Athens. It's a part of town that goes against the grain, where young people are able to find expression, and maybe it's this that terrifies the authorities so much, especially the police who really ought to have something better to do.

Every single time I go to Menandrou street, the police are there. But are they cleaning up the drug users and prostitutes operating in clear view? No! Of course not. They're too busy breaking up groups of immigrants who gather on the weekend in the only part of town that they can really claim as theirs. When they're not busy beating up immigrants, they're stopping cars driven by women to flirt with them and issuing tickets if the ladies get irritated. And when they're not doing that, they're shooting dead unarmed teenagers.

The Greek media has thrown impartiality out of the window and turned on the police. Kudos to them, because all though this police killing is getting unprecedented levels of coverage, the news debates have made sure to mention police killings in the past, not only Greeks but immigrants and the Roma too.

Meanwhile the riots have divided society down the middle. I am in full favour of them, believing that it's healthy for a government to be scared of its people when it really fucks up. And this time the government deserves everything it gets.

Greece has been a member of the EU since 1981, but is plagued by corrupt and self-interested politicians, crippling bureaucracy, cronyism and an increasingly disillusioned public.

The left wing government of the PASOK party was voted out in favour of the centre right New Democracy party in 2004 in a move to affect change in the country. But the change that the Greek public had hoped for was not to come and the government’s failure to listen to their voice came to fruition on Saturday night.

The crowds that have taken to the streets in anger at the unprovoked murder of a teenager represent all spectrums of Greek society, but mainly members of what is referred to in Greece as Generation 700 Euro, in reference to an entire generation of young people who despite enjoying an unprecedented level of further education are not able to find jobs that pay them more than EUR 700 a month, a sum that is barely able to cover a modest lifestyle.

The cost of daily living in Greece has rocketed while pay rates have remained the same after the Euro replaced the inflation-ridden Drachma in 2002, resulting in one in five Greeks living below the poverty line and young people being unable to afford to move out of the parental household or start families.

Greek youngsters face some of the toughest school systems and university entrance standards in Europe through a poorly funded educational system and are then subject to government entry quotas for universities that fall well below the actual demand. The result is families putting themselves under huge financial pressure to educate their children overseas.

Despite all this, Greece has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the EU for under 25s and of the original 15 EU states, it is the only one where higher education does nothing to improve a candidate’s job prospects.

Simple day to day tasks like the installation of a phone line or the paying of taxes are in Greece an exercise in negotiation skills and bribe paying.

Add to this a government that seems embarrassingly incapable of dealing with 21st century problems like the processing of illegal immigrants, a bullying police force that acts with impunity and now a global financial crisis impacting the country’s faltering economy, and it’s easy to see so many young people are so angry.

In my opinion only a small section of the crowds are trouble makers. The rest are just plain angry and are venting this anger through violence. And really, when you consider all the facts, why the hell should they not be angry? As so many news commentators have said, this is a generation without hope. The youngsters waiting outside at Alexandros's funeral were crying not only for the waste of a life, but also for themselves and their wasted lives in a country where the government is not the least bit bothered about their futures. They were tears of anger, sadness and frustration.

If this government has any brains at all, they will take a serious look at cracking down on the grievances of the young people who see no future instead of the rioters themselves.

Glass can be fixed, shops are insured. If they wipe out the hope of an entire generation, they are sowing the seeds for their own demise and if that's the road they want to go down, we haven't seen anything yet.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Mamma Mia becomes UK's Fastest Ever Selling DVD

And why shouldn't it be? Mamma Mia has become the fastest selling DVD ever in the UK, beating Titanic, the success of which I never really got anyway.

On my flight back from the UK with Aegean Airlines, they played Mamma Mia and I watched it feeling so happy with my life in Greece. I may not live on a Greek island, but I'm doing pretty well. And just imagine, so many people sitting under grey skies and eating cheese and onion crisps with the heating on in June must watch that movie, sigh and think "How I wish I was living in Greece, spending carefree summers frolicking on beaches."

And that's my life! Isn't it great? Sometimes we watch a movie and try to console ourselves that movies tend to exaggerate things - life in Greece can't be all that sublime.

Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but it is. I may not be rich or extremely successful in my profession, and I don't live in a big house. I have a pile of bills on my desk that adds up to more than our combined monthly incomes.

But I'm still happy with my simple little life in a place that taught me to put that childhood skip back into my step.

My God, how much I want it to be summer right now!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What Kind of Magic Spell to Use?


Yesterday I found Labyrinth on Youtube and went ballistic, watching the movie and replaying the songs and dancing to them. I was incredibly pleased with myself, and sure that Mr Zeus would share my enthusiasm at finding this classic childhood movie. So when he came home from work to find me dancing around he asked me what I was watching and I excitedly told him, "Labyrinth! You remember Labyrinth, don't you?"


And he didn't. Because while I was a five year old, watching Labyrinth with my sisters and friends, my imagination running wild with goblins and fairy creatures, Mr Zeus was already well into his dating life. Of course he wouldn't know what Labyrinth was! Sometimes I forget about our age difference.


I love this movie. It had such an influence on me that I was still wearing costume jewellery well into my early 20s for the sole purpose of using it as currency if I ever needed to bribe a goblin.


It's always a little sad watching movies from your childhood, especially fantasy movies, that you absolutely believed were real. I always thought that I would get to visit the Labyrinth one day. I watched it more as a documentary rather than a movie. So sad that we all must lose that blissful innocence.


Enjoy it here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Meandering Post

Well it's been a long time since my last post and that's mostly because I've been doing nothing much but monitoring the activities of spots on my face. But now I have a puppy which means a lot less time to sit around doing nothing. The only downside is that since he's still so young, I can't leave the house when there's no one else to mind him.

What am I going to do when I go to the UK for a week tomorrow?

With so much sitting at home I've had time to check out the new MTV Greece channel. It's not bad. I've never watched My Super Sweet Sixteen before and I find it pretty revolting. If you've not watched it before either, don't. Basically all it is cameras following ultra rich and ultra spoilt girls as they plan and execute their 16th birthday parties. It's car crash TV if I'm honest - the one I watched was about a vicious little brat called Cindy who buys a wedding dress and blows a huge amount of money on a Cinderella style party.

She was tiny and she was God awful as a person. I wished I could grab her and flush her down the toilet like the little turd she is.

I am also avidly following Greece's first X Factor. I don't have favourites to win or lose, except to say that Kokkina Xalia are really very good and Eirini Papadpoulou has disappointed me greatly by ditching her curly hair as soon as she got through, and with it went her talent.

But I think ladies, we can all agree that the real star of the show is Sakis *smooch*. No seriously, he's a nice guy too. My cousin (via marriage) was in hospital for some very very serious surgery and he called her to wish her good luck. Now that's star quality! He also left the hospital after the birth of his child wearing this which should really catch on in Athens where only tourists are stupid enough to try to take to the streets with a stroller and nearly get their offspring killed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Miracle



















How many times have we watched Hollywood movies where the president is portrayed by a black man and snorted "Yeah right!" And now in a case of life imitating art, here he is, Barack Obama, America's very first African American president. Thank you God!

You know, for all my complaining about America, I must say kudos to them. As Obama said rightly, America is the only place where this could happen even though to the rest of us, we doubted.

For an ethnic minority, especially the bad sort of ethnic minority who has darker skin than the population, to win an election in Greece would never happen. It would never happen in the Home Country and for all its "We're more racially equal than the Americans" it has yet to happen in the UK and I somehow doubt it will. We'll be stuck with fuddy duddy, hoity toity upper class old white men for a long time to come. It didn't happen in India, the world's supposed largest democracy when Sonia Ghandi had to abscond her leadership because she was Italian born.

So congratulations to Obama and all he had to overcome to get to where he did. Sadly, he is right. It's a victory almost unfathomable anywhere else in the world. Three words of advice though: bullet proof glass.

Now excuse me while I bake a cake to celebrate!

Image: http://tiny.cc/7zhn0

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The World Looks On


Today is an important day for the whole world as we wait to see who the Americans vote for their next president. Hands up those of you who are worried Joe the Yokle isn't qualified enough to take part in such an important world decision?

Needless to say, I've been backing Obama since the Democrats announced him as their official candidate. Previously I was torn between him and Clinton - do I back a potential woman president or do I back a potential ethnic minority president? I wonder if I'll ever see an ethnic minority female president in my life time! But as Sarah Palin shows, as a woman you shouldn't back a candidate just because she's female. *Shudder*

The stupidity of this woman is astounding. Here I was fretting that I was underqualified for my job when I could have been aiming to be Prime Minister, dayyam! And another thing; how can someone so "pro life" be so anti animal life? Surely the two don't match? Oh well, it's the US of A and after 2000 and 2004, I believe most of us resigned ourselves to not trying to understand the mysteries of how the Americans think.

I want Obama to win so badly, as does most of the Home Country because quite frankly, we're starting to get a bit pissed off with American bombs just accidentally finding their way across our borders and killing our people. Currently we're enjoying all the trimmings of warfare - suicide bombings, economic meltdown, no food, no power, no jobs, enemy bombs raining overhead - without actually officially being at war with anyone. Lightly put, it kinda sucks.

So go Obama, go! I'll be staying up to watch the results come in on Skai.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Moving to Athens according to Alice














I remembered today a quote that used to come to my mind when I was first settling down in Athens. During my first year, I was finding the city and the people bewilderingly impossible.

It was all so loud and crazy and frustrating. I can feel my irritation with it all when I read back over posts from my first year. What was Athens? What the hell were the Greeks all about?
And it would remind me of a quote from Alice in Wonderland, a quote that is actually the most fitting summation of moving to Athens one could ever hope to find, so perfect that it amazes me that my exact feelings of settling down in Athens could be so succinctly captured in a few lines from a child's story book:

'But I don’t want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.

'Oh, you can’t help that,' said the Cat. 'We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.'

'How do you know I’m mad?' said Alice.

'You must be,' said the Cat. 'or you wouldn’t have come here.'

Monday, October 20, 2008

Coolness From 12 Years Ago



Sometimes you forget how good a particular song or video is. I was clicking around randomly on youtube while I worked and the first click onto Estelle's American Boy led, via a series of clicks, to Dil Cheez by Bally Sagoo, the very first Asian music video that we watched in drop-jawed astonishment rather than toe-curling embarrassment.

A short history lesson - Asian music before Bally Sagoo was a pretty awful affair for everyone outside of the culture, and sometimes even for those of us inside the culture. Sure, we'd dance around the room to the music videos on the Indian music channels, but we'd rather die that let any of our English school friends catch us listening to those songs or watching those technicolour, costume changing, hip thrusting videos.

Then along came Dil Cheez by Bally Sagoo. I remember watching Top of the Pops with my sisters in eager anticipation to see where it would chart, and breathing a sigh of relief when it clocked a not too shabby Number 12. Friends wanted to know what the lyrics were, and I enjoyed a brief period of coolness when I'd casually drop the tape into the cassette player and press play in the company of various Lisas and Rachels.

That of course was only when my older sister would let me have the tape, which was not very often. Ergo, I was still uncool most of the time.

Click here and here for more.

You Know You've Adjusted to Life in Athens When...

1. You envy your friend who lives in a flat with a five metre by 3 metre scrap of land in front of it because she has a garden.

2. A few hundred square feet of grass and trees packed inside streets upon streets of concrete counts as an urban green space. You forget that when you first arrived you lamented the loss of greenery like Hyde Park, Central Park or the countryside.

3. You call that scrap of land a green space, even though most of the year it consists of dead grass and dirt.

4. A 90 square metre flat sounds huge to you. "Enough to start a family!". Your mind has deleted the concept of the spacious type of housing you may have lived in.

5. You start saying "close the phone" and "close the light".

6. You read about foreign incidents of road rage caused by someone parking someone else in, look at the photo, and can't understand what all the fuss was about.

7. You lose your balance and fall over if you come across a footpath that's not one foot wide, cracked, planted with orange trees and parked upon all at the same time.

8. You snigger at people who walk their dogs.

9. You go to the laiki and are wary of produce that's marked out as not being Greek.

10. When you leave Greece and meet your friends for a coffee, you are surprised when they begin to make their excuses and leave after an hour. You had cleared three hours of your schedule for the meeting!

11. It doesn't shock you any more to see heavily pregnant women chain smoking and drinking.

12. You get so used to life in Athens that you venture out alone late at night on the weekends in London and end up scared sh*tless that you'll get stabbed, mugged, punched, groped or vomitted upon.

13. You get so used to life in Athens that you try to make small talk with people on the tube in London and get looked at like you're crazy.

14. You can answer questions on University Challenge that the anally retentive toffs from Eton and Cambridge can't, like what is a dodekahedron and what is paraskavedekatriaphobia, and your family turns and looks at you like you're a genius.

Feel free to add your own.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Go Green













Living in a country that has such a deep relationship with the sea makes you more aware of how your actions impact on the environment. At least it has for me. I began to recycle and be more aware of what sort of packaging I chose when shopping (paper bags instead of plastic for vegetables, let's say) after seeing summer beaches strewn with plastic bags and bottles. This sort of mess, when you bring it up with your parea, is almost always blamed on our messy mediterranean neighbours.

Oh really! I didn't know Lebanon was so fond of Greek brands of bottled water, or that the Turks had a predisposition to shopping at Champion Μαρινόπουλος. The mind boggles at the dedication it takes to travel all the way to Greece to buy Loutraki bottled water in Champion Μαρινόπουλος bags and go all the way back to your home country to throw the waste in the sea. Tsk tsk, messy mediterranean neighbours! Hmmmm....

Anyway, recently I started thinking about the chemicals in our day to day lives which we have accepted so seamlessly we don't even stop to think about them. For example, earlier this year I gave up chemical deodorants and antiperspirants when a very young colleague got diagnosed with breast cancer. After some experimenting with various high end and low end alternatives, the absolute best solution I found was baking soda. Just dust a little on your armpits after a shower and you'll stay fresh for up to two whole days. That's a tip that I got from someone who left a comment on this blog.

I turned this experiment into an article and while researching, I stumbled into another nasty chemical - paraben. Parabens are chemical preservatives that are used in 99% of all cosmetic products. No joke. Take a random sample of toiletries from your bathroom and I guarantee most if not all contain some form of paraben (usually prefixed by propyl, methyl, ethyl). In a study on breast cancer tumours, most were found to contain parabens.

Nobody can prove or disprove if they're cancer causing, but why take the chance? Not only is this crap getting absorbed into your skin, we wash it down the drain each time we shower, and the little sea creatures shouldn't have to eat paraben flavoured plankton just because we think We're Worth It!

Korres, the Greek cosmetics company, makes a point of not using parabens in their products, as does the Queens and Kings range of shower gels and lotions. I mention these two primarily because I know they are easily found in Greece, otherwise there are lots of brands that have started making chemical free toiletries.

So the new ways of doing things are not always the smartest or the healthiest, even if they are better advertised and more flashily packed. I went to Champion supermarket the other day (Champion, put the cheque in the mail for all this free advertising) to see if they had started stocking the My Planet range of cleaning products, but I found something even better.

I was specifically after washing powder because we were running out and the washing machine along with the kitchen sink is where we find ourselves pouring the most chemicals into the sea and harming our little sea friends.

Amongst all the usual names like Skip and Ariel, and Champion's own green range L'Arbre Vert, I spotted a green and white box with a picture of a baby on the front. This is Arkadi green olive soap flake washing powder, hands down the most natural washing powder you will ever find. It has only four ingredients: Saponified olive oil, fatty acids, water and sea salt. That's all. Not only that, it was EUR 2.65 for a kilo making it the cheapest choice too.

I have tested it out and can say that it works exactly as well as anything else I've tried. The only difference is you sprinkle it over the clothes in the washing machine drum instead of putting it where the powder would usually go, as sitting in the soap drawer it just turns to a green goo. I usually also add a tablespoon of baking soda to the wash because it softens the water and makes for cleaner clothes.

So there really is no excuse. Save some pennies and some sea life! Buy Arkadi washing powder!


Image: http://smedia.vermotion.com/media/18803/resources/reef2559.jpg

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Life on a Distant Planet


You may have all heard about the Hubble space telescope breaking down. Well it seems they've managed to fix it so well that it's now peering into the life on a planet some 100 million light years away from us.
No, seriously! Just click here to watch and listen to the fascinating people of this planet. Now, I know they sound like a bunch of foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics who are totally out of touch with reality, but can you really blame them?

I mean, if they're 100 million light years away imagine how long any news from our world would take to reach them! And even if it managed to reach them, you never know, they might have some kind of information barrier in the form of hundreds of news channels that work hard all day at telling you absolutely nothing... just a thought.

Still, I sure am glad these people don't have any sort of power to, say, decide who the world's next most powerful man will be. Oh shucks, then we'd really be in trouble, wouldn't we! *cough, cough*

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First loves


On the weekend me and Mr Zeus were talking about our first childhood crushes. His was his nursery school teacher and then a succession of teachers, girls next door and school mates. His first crush laid down an interesting quirk - he finds women whose teeth turn slightly inwards insanely sexy, because his first teacher's teeth were like that.


I struggled to recall anyone. When I was in kindergarten a little boy did want to marry me. He even asked my mother's permission and when she said he was too young, he said he would play music and I would dance and that's how we'd make a living.


I knew he liked me but I wasn't interested back. I remember one afternoon saying I was going to hit him, and the poor little thing, he let me. "I'm warning you," I said, "I'm really strong." Still he let me hit him, so I gave him a few of my hardest punches on his back. But he was a chubby little thing and if he felt the pain he didn't show it. "Okay, my turn." he said, swinging around, to which I replied that wasn't part of the deal and took my five year old self scuttling away.


The one crush I can distinctly remember was when I was about eight years old. At the time I didn't know what it was, so I couldn't identify it as a crush. It was with a cousin of mine, a cool, motorcycle riding cousin. Here's the interesting, slightly creepy part. He was a lot older than me. I can only say it was a crush now because I remember being eight and him getting married in his early 20s, and I remember feeling jealous of the bride, but I was too young and sheltered to identify the feeling that was making me jealous.


So I guess without even knowing it my taste for an older, motorcycle riding man was laid down decades before I ever met Mr Zeus. Interesting!


Since Mr Zeus however, the only men who ever express any interest in me are the Creepy Older Men. They are exclusively the one and only brand of men who ever flirt with me when I'm out without Mr Zeus. And they don't even skip a beat when I mention that I'm married.


It's kinda sad. I'm not saying I want to be flirted with by Calvin Klein models (um well, maybe I am saying that) I am simply at a loss to explain why no man around my age group has ever approached me. Purely out of scientific curiosity, I would like to know why that is.


At a wedding I was recently at, dressed traditionally of course, the couple apparently received a flurry of enquiries from single males about who I was. It was completely the sari's doing, making me appear like a new flavour of icecream to try. Anyway the point is, despite all this supposed interest, no one came near me. Furthermore, the groom being a much older man and thus the majority of guests too belonging to that age group, the chances are that all these enquiries came from haggy old men with a pocket full of Viagra.


3 Benefits of Only Haggy, Creepy Older Men being interested in you:


1. Should things get sticky, you can outrun them very easily.

2. Thanks to their poor eyesight and cataracts, you appear to them in a permanent soft focus glow.

3. You can flatter yourself that they walked into trees/traffic/furniture admiring your beauty, not because they can't see where they're going.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Joy


After more than two years here, these are some things about life in Greece that make me feel joyful:

1. The way there is a different type of sunset for each season. This weekend I saw a blazing red autumn sunset, throwing up shades of pale purple, gold and blue.

2. Not freezing in terror whenever someone on the street tries to talk to me and being able to navigate around the city all on my own at all hours of the day and night.

3. Not shaving years off my life every time I visit the post office.

4. I may complain about Greece's lack of multiculturalism, but over here I am unique in a nice way. I am the first Asian most Greeks I meet have had a chance to interact with. It makes me feel like I'm getting the chance to give something back in my life here.

5. Apples that taste and smell like apples, pears that taste and smell like pears, grapes that taste and smell like grapes. Not the fruit of a British supermarket that all tastes and smells generic.

6. The big, blue sky.

7. How I feel safe no matter where I go in Athens or at what time.

8. Taxi drivers who know about Home Country politics and want to know my point of view.

9. Snacking on little paper bags of pumpkin and sunflower seeds instead of fried potato chips.

10. Having enough Greek to learn recipes from Mr Zeus's ancient grandmother, and being the only person who she will teach those recipes to, claiming amnesia when anyone else asks her.

What prompted this post? I found some old emails I had written when I was 21 and was astounded by how much I wanted to leave the UK even then, and how completely unhappy and angry I was. I was so full of rage, rage against this, rage against that, rage because my favourite hairproduct had been discontinued.

I was 21, and I can't recall at all what my skin was like, what my body was like or what my eyes were like. I was lost somewhere at the bottom of a well of unhappiness. Where did I get the time and energy to write such rambling, page upon page emails about really stupid things, like how my hair never looked right, or whether it was really morally awful that a man had kissed me on my cheek at a nightclub and should I tell my friends about it.

I read these emails and thought it was such a shame that I was so miserable back then, tied down like Gulliver by hundres of tiny, tiny little issues, all combining to stop me being true to myself and living my life. No wonder I was so unhappy.


I strongly believe life in the UK was eating my away from the inside. My God, I am so glad I left. I am so glad for the life I have in Greece and I am so glad for Greece giving me a little piece of herself to call my own. I am so glad that this is the first time and place in my life where I am being myself, and I believe that's largely down to the sense of acceptance I have felt over here.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

The UK Banking Crisis Explained!

From thedailymash.co.uk

BANKS TO LEND YOU YOUR OWN MONEY

ThE government is to invest £500bn of your money in British banks so they can lend it back to you with interest.
















'I got confused'

The historic move is being hailed as a lifeline for the financial system as long as nobody asks too many questions.

Julian Cook, chief economist at Corbett and Barker, said: "The government will give your money to the banks so the banks can start lending you that money, probably at around 7% APR. "Thanks to all the interest you're paying on your own money, the banks will make billions of pounds again and normality will be restored.

"After a few years of this the government will cash in the bank shares it bought with your money and use the profits to build a huge f*cking dome somewhere."He added: "In case you hadn't already worked it out - the entire global financial system is predicated on the assumption that you're an idiot."

Chancellor Alistair Darling said the decision had been taken in tandem with the banking industry, adding: "They used a lot of dirty words I'd never heard before and one of them had an angry looking dog."

Meanwhile, Emma Bradford, a sales manager from Bath, said: "Why doesn't the government just give my money to me so I can buy stuff from businesses who will then make a profit and put it in a bank?"

But Mr Darling insisted: "Shut up."


DOES ALISTAIR DARLING HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO RUN SEVENTEEN BANKS AT ONCE?













Nope

CHANCELLOR Alistair Darling was said to be nervous and excited last night after being told he would have to run 17 banks at the same time.

Mr Darling, who has no previous experience of running a bank, has opened a new Word file on his computer and has already typed some headings in block capitals.

The chancellor said: "Barclays - now that's quite a big one isn't it? Right, so that'll probably need all of Monday.

"Nationwide I can do Tuesday mornings. I'll split Wednesday between Lloyds and Abbey. HBOS is f*cked so that'll need all day Thursday, and I can do the rest on Friday. Should be finished by half-four."

He added: "Worst comes to worst, I can always take RBS home with me and fiddle about with it in the garage."

City analyst Julian Cook said: "I believe British banking is about to enter an exciting new era of dreadful speeches, lost CDs and changing its mind every 20 minutes." Meanwhile, as the FTSE 100 continued to fall despite the £500bn pound cash injection, stockbrokers finally admitted they have not been completely honest with us.

Martin Bishop, a senior trader at Madeley-Finnegan, said: "Yeah, okay, basically what happened was last Christmas we all got shitfaced and ended up throwing £800 trillion into a volcano. "It was all Fred Goodwin's idea. He's mental."

Image and Text: www.thedailymash.co.uk

ITELLI


What happened ? You can't just leave like this! You know I have issues about being abandoned without any warning!

Come back, or at least explain why you stopped blogging. I used to enjoy your blog.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Rearranging Marriage


I received news this morning that a good friend of mine in the Home Country got married. One day she was engaged, the next day she met the guy and that evening they were married. All within the space of three days.

As someone who grew up in that culture, this should not surprise me. Indeed, it didn't for a very long time. My own personal theory had been that if I didn't find someone by 25 I'd let my parents arrange my marriage. This was way before I knew what love was. Since I found love, I can't imagine anything worse than an arranged marriage. I can't imagine marrying someone I don't know who is just in it out of a sense of duty, who doesn't love me or know me.

Love is an overrated concept in my culture, almost embarrassing, somewhere dropped into the same box of other embarrassing things like sex and mini skirt wearing. It's a silly luxury that most people think will ruin your life. They say in my part of the world that a bride cries on her wedding day not because she is getting married and has to leave her home, but because she is mourning the secret love that can now never come to anything.

My culture is littered with love stories that come to nothing. Every single one of our folk legends circles around female protagonists who fell in love, earned the scorn of society and thus perished in some way or, more cruelly, had to live on after her lover was killed. They serve almost as a warning to future generations: loving of your own free will comes to nothing. Best listen to your parents. My type of relationship, where you chose your partner, is called a Love Marriage and is considered selfish and ridiculous.

I know for sure that me and my older sister who chose our own husbands are gossiped endlessly about back home. I know this because back in the day we did it too, despite our own parents choosing each other. That's how strong the mindset is.

I'm not saying arranged marriages are a terrible system. In my life at this moment I am surrounded by miserable couples who chose each other of their own free will. It's just that I feel like a life lived without love is such a waste, such a pity.

But then it's easy to walk down one path when you don't even know that the other one exists. Had I never discovered what it felt like to love someone enough to fight everything to be together, most probably I too would be walking down the other path. I had no idea I had such a great capacity to love another person, it took me totally by surprise. But it also meant that I was left astonished by how narrowly I escaped a life lived without such love. I had no expectations - I was happy to save my love for any children I might have.

This is the culture I grew up. This was how it was. We didn't question. And now I can't imagine anything more terrible.

I know what most girls in the Home Country are like, I was one of them. We carry around a lot of guilt and fear of intimacy. When I reflect on how many problems me and Mr Zeus had because of my mental restrictions, that too despite the fact that we loved each other and he worked so hard to help me, it makes me wonder and feel incredibly sad: how do you make love when there was no love that brought you together, not even lust, because us good Home Country girls aren't supposed to feel that either?

But then again I guess it comes down to not knowing any better.

I hope it all works out for my friend. The problem is that if it doesn't, as is often the case nowadays, you aren't paying the price for your mistake. You are paying the price for someone else's mistake.

I wanted so much for my girlfriends back home to fall in love and get married, like I did. But what are the chances when a society is so heavily stacked against you. It was only after falling in love that I realised I was surrounded by art, music, poetry, paintings, all dedicated to love, a thousand times more than all the other themes put together. I began to wonder if the meaning of life is love itself.

To not love and be loved back. What an incredible pity, be that an arranged marriage in Asia, a marriage of convenience in London or a shotgun marriage in Greece.

Who Said Slavery is Dead?

This morning I read this article in the Guardian, one of many such articles the Guardian has published.

In my teens Dubai was one of the must-see places I wanted to go in my life, but the more I heard the more uncomfortable I got. All this fantastic shopping, all these fabulous buildings, expats showered in money. It doesn't just spring out of the ground.

There is an army of slaves in the background, unheard, unseen, treated like animals, I mean really, treated like animals. Actually no. People in Dubai probably treat their dogs better. I really can't say more than the article does.

I'd urge you to read it and boycott Dubai as a holiday destination. Seriously, somewhere with that amount of money has no excuse to keep their hardest workers so badly paid and taken care of. It's racism, plain and simple.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Thought of the Day












From UrbanDictionary.com:

Manicorn:

a mythical male creature who is successful (read: pursuing his passion and can pay his electric bills/rent), funny, chivalrous, masculine (read: not chauvinistic), adventurous, artistic (read: not suicidal).


Friday, October 03, 2008

A Night To Remember



Here's how I spent last night, a night so horrible I had to capture it in a blog post.

I haven't slept properly most of this week but the last two nights have been particularly bad because of mosquitoes. They have bitten into every available part of me, from the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands to my armpits. What sort of pervert mosquito looks at your armpit and thinks "Mmmm... yummy!"?

Last night went down something like this. The lack of hot weather has destoryed my appetite. Yesterday we went to a home exhibition and looked around a great big building filled with mostly really ugly, kitschy furniture, the kind they ooh and aah over in the Home Country and the kind that I would be proudly showing off right now if I had remained and married there. Really, the 13 year old me would run appreciative hands over that hideous, curly legged, white lacquered and gold finished furniture and think it was most fantastic.

Anyway, after that Mr Zeus and me went out to dinner and I forced a very generous helping of moussaka into myself on account of not eating lately and starting to lose weight. When we got home I further expanded my stomach with grapes. All I want to eat these days are grapes. Grapes, grapes, grapes.

By the time I hit the couch for some pre-bed TV, I was feeling quite ill. Even turning over made me feel like I'd be sick.

Getting into bed started off an awful night. It was uncomfortably humid, and I usually like humid weather. Someone in the neighbourhood very kindly left their TV on full blast all night. All. night. Tuned in to some music channel. I detest sleeping with the TV on, I've hated it since I was a child and here I could do nothing because if I closed the window we'd suffocate but leaving it open meant that the entire night Amy Winehouse drifted in and out of my dreams accompanied by the hum of mosquitoes.

On top of that my dearly beloved fell asleep on my hair so that in the middle of the night when I tried to turn over I actually felt the hairs being ripped out of my scalp. This in fact is what woke me up in the first place and allowed me to experience the aural vomit that is the tinny sound of a TV on someone's balcony, mosquitoes and unusually high decible snoring eminating from the person next to you.

The mosquitoes were having a party at my expense, attacking any part of myself that I left exposed. "You won't win!" I thought, "I'm not getting out of bed! No matter how awake I am! I'm staying right here!" But finally I gave up and exchanged my blanket for a bedsheet in order to not die of overheating while trying to keep the mosquitoes off.

The TV played on, making me angrier and angrier. The mosquitoes buzzed cruelly in my ear. I slapped myself many times trying to get rid of them, finally hitting myself so hard in the face that it triggered a migraine.

At about 6 am Mr Zeus managed to kill off the last mosquito and I got in some sleep. When I got up at 7.30, guess what! The TV had been switched off.

Well, thanksaf*ckinglot.

Bets are on that I get fired this week. I am having the most unproductive week of my job to date and my work so far has been returned riddled with mistakes. I have two deadlines today. My solitary functioning braincell doesn't quite know what to do first.

All the emails I get from work are getting "Yes!" "Sure!" "Will do!" replies from me, while I sit here staring blankly at the screen. I'm not sure how to make Yes! Sure! Will do! happen today.

Image: http://i243.photobucket.com/albums/ff56/shcr05/No_Sleep.jpg

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Summer Love


So that's it then. Summer is over. I thought me and summer were doing really well. Laughing, singing, swimming, basically enjoying ourselves. I confessed my undying love for summer even though I knew summer couldn't stay around forever (only at the equater is summer not quite so commitment phobic).

But I didn't expect to be abandoned like this. Summer just got up and left in the middle of the night, leaving me, the jilted lover, to wake up one morning to find my darling summer gone. Just gone, just like that. I didn't even get a clue or an adjustment period. Summer never hinted that it was thinking of leaving me.

And like a forsaken lover, I mope around the house. I have no appetite, I've even started to lose weight. I feel listless and sad. I'm sleeping badly. What can I do? I was made for the summer and even though I accept it has to leave at some point, this is the first Greek summer I've seen which simply evaporated into thin air like this.

This wet weather has given rise to a new round of mosquitoes which add to my poor sleeping. Our nights are punctuated with the sound of me and Mr Zeus slapping ourselves about the face and limbs, trying to make a few mosquito martyrs. And these 21st Century mosquitoes are smart: the second you switch the light on to try and find them they take flight, making it impossible to deliver a death blow.

My cooking skills have also toppled off the edge of a cliff since the sun vanished. I was trying to make some celebratory food on Tuesday and alternated between burning things beyond rescue or making them all wrong in the first place.

Eight months to go till June 2009 and the return of summer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Get Your Sticky Paws Off!


I've noticed a change starting to take place within myself and it's not one I'm very happy with. I have commented before on how ruthless Greek women are in the pursuit of men, to the point that they flirt shamelessly with Mr Zeus even while I'm right there. In the past there has not been much I can do about it except blog and tease Mr Zeus later, but now I've noticed that it has started to upset me.

Now when it happens, I find myself stating my territory in a more obvious way by making physical contact. I find my smile wavering. And my teasing has gone from playful to irritated. "I mean what is this? 'Would you like a coffee? Frappe? Flash of my boob?' Can't these women find their own men?"

The women of Eastern Europe in general are the most ruthless I've ever come across. As soon as a man is taken, it's like they can't resist the challenge of prying him back with their perfectly manicured fingers. It particularly pained me when it happened at a wedding and I felt like the woman was trying her luck because Mr Zeus's silly, sari-clad foreign wife wouldn't understand what she was saying anyway.

People flirt. It happens. Men flirt with me too, but they never do it when I'm with Mr Zeus. I can't understand what joy these women get from throwing themselves at taken men. But mostly I can't understand why it's starting to bother me more than it used to. Maybe somewhere in my subsconcious I thought that it would stop at some point and it hasn't.

I'm not a jealous person, I never really have been, so I don't want to continue on this path. I don't want Mr Zeus to grow tense when some predatory banshee flirts with him because he knows that afterwards I'll go on about it. I don't want to feel myself grow agitated and struggle to hide this from showing on my face (nearly impossible) when a woman who's been flirting lightly with my man bumps me along to the furthest chair from him. I mean really, what do you do in that situation? You could say "Excuse me but would you mind if I sat next to my husband?" but if it was an honest mistake then you'll just embarrass the person.

You know what's interesting about these women. Seeing a man they like taken turns the whole thing into a challenge for them and they will try their luck any way they can. If they manage to lure the man away, maybe somewhere in their twisted little minds they've won the game, whatever that may be.

But years later these women too cry when their own men cheat. So why start the cycle in the first place?

By the way, in my research, this phenomenon happens to all men as long as they are no longer single. So tell me, how can I go back to not caring? Oh and guys who are having a hard time finding a woman, the next time you're in a bar start talking about your imaginary wife and watch what happens.

Image: http://tinyurl.com/3fx4vk

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quirky Meme


EllasDevil tagged me for this quirky meme. Here are the rules:

1. Link the person who tagged you.

2. Mention the rules on your blog.

3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.

4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking to them.

5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged bloggers' blogs to inform them.


And here are my 6, strangely food-related, quirks:

1: When I'm particularly upset or stressed, I will embark on cooking complicated or fiddly food, like moussaka or samosas completely from scratch, to take my mind off it. I would do this at university too and then leave the finished product in the kitchen with a note for people to help themselves because by the time I was done, I didn't want it any more.

2: In supermarkets, I tend to buy the dented cans or cartons because I feel sorry for them and don't want them to feel unwanted.

3: I still feel creeped out that something under the bed is going to get me if I lie with a leg dangling over the edge. I tell myself to stop being silly and keep my leg hanging off the bed... but I soon get scared and draw it back.

4: When I eat a meal, I make forkfuls consisting of a little bit of everything on the plate. I adjust as I eat to make sure that I will be able to eat a little bit of everything from the first to the last bite. I might have a taste now and then of the different items but generally I'm a blender, not a separator.

5: When I prepare cucumbers, I slice the ends off and then rub them against the cut edge of the cucumber until a white froth forms. Someone once taught me that this draws out the bitterness but now everyone thinks I'm a weirdo for doing it.

6: Whenever I'm particularly starving, I keep hearing the sound that my phone makes when its battery is dying in my head. You know, as in my own battery is dying.

Hmmm who to tag now. I tag GreekGoddess, Blackbird, Psofofeggaro, TeacherDude and itelli, all of whom were kind enough to comment on my blog recently.

Gimme My Country Back!!

When I was at university and brimming with hope of changing the world, I went to a socialist student meeting. I'd joined the group on a whim and the discussion was of interest to me because we would be discussing military rule in the Home Country. It was your typical Welsh rainy September afternoon as I made my way up creaking stairs to a room over a pub, filled with right-on, fairtrade tea drinking, Guardian reading, long haired young socialists all who argued passionately using long words and throwing around the names of socialist icons or theories about the Home Country and I was taken aback, mightily disillusioned by how little they knew.

Naturally, being proper socialists and me being just a pretend one, they weren't having any of my not-based-on-some-dead-bigshot's-theories talk about the Home Country. I kept being told that I didn't understand, which for me was curious as I kept pointing out that actually I had grown up in the Home Country unlike anyone else in the room and so was much better placed to know what I was talking about than any of them. The reason they had taken such offence, argued so passionately with me in big important BBC Radio voices, was that I had said the unsayable in a room full of optimistic bright young things. I had said that marshal law was the best thing that could happen to the Home Country because democracy just didn't work for us.


And still they bandied on about it. They explained it to me patiently, the merits of democracy, ignoring and talking over me when I repeated that democracy didn't work for everyone, like marriage. Me being in the room was some sort of blip in their matrix. They paused, stared for a moment when I said something, and then continued to pick up the conversation where they had left out before Reality Check from the Home Country had butted in.

It was ridiculous. I looked around the room and realised what a sham it all was. Who did these people think they were, sitting above a pub in Wales talking out of their backsides about a country they knew so little about? They didn't have family or friends living there or any genuine reason for concern about what happened to the Home Country. I did.

The meeting was drawn to a 'successful' close with the conclusion that Democracy was the answer to the Home Country's woes. Democracy, just any type of democracy. Golly gosh! How come us silly people in the third world never thought of that before? Pick a tyrant and elect him and it'll all be good and proper. I never went to another meeting.

Naturally, that's what the people of the Home Country have just done and demonstrated very clearly why democracy doesn't work for them, because they kicked out a general who was the best of a bad lot and at least stabilised the country a little, and elected a man who has been thrown into jail many times for digging his grubby finger's into the nation's pockets and bought million pound mansions in the UK with the cash of ordinary people.

So you have to then wonder if my fellow Home Countryers don't deserve what they get if they're going to show that they have such appallingly short memories about how badly the same batch of politicians have treated them decade after decade.

And yet... I feel sometimes like I'm watching a country disappearing before my eyes, going up in flames like the iconic buildings of my childhood.

I don't feel sorry for the building. I feel sorry for the ordinary people who worked there, who were just trying to make a humble living. I feel sick at the thought of my friend's fiance being thrown three feet against a wall while he worked in a nearby building. I feel angry when I see the size of the crater and think that someone sat and calculated that level of raw violence, especially in the Holy Month and knowing full well that it would be a busy evening of families out with their children. What kind of sick people are these? I feel impotent because all I can do is watch the news.

In the end, I did find that bag of soil from my village and it now stands in a bottle on a shelf. Just as well because the way things are going, maybe that's the closest my own children will ever get to the Home Country.

I can say that things were never great when I lived in the Home Country but they were never this bad. It all makes me feel very strongly that it's outside hands that are stirring up trouble there, because whatever was wrong with the uneducated and easily influenced people of the Home Country, repeatedly blowing up your own countryfolk was considered a hideous, cowardly thing to do and now it happens all the time. But if you offer a poor person guaranteed financial security for his family with some religious guilt thrown in, his own life seems like a small price to pay.

I bet those socialists above a pub would love to hear my latest theory.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Clumsy + Flu = Certain Death



I am the absolute clumsiest person I know. In fact, that was my father's argument for why I should opt for an in- family arranged marriage, because no outside man would tolerate my destructive habits.

Mr Zeus has warily resigned to buying eight rather than six when we buy new glasses or plates, to leave me allowance for the breaks that are inevitable when things pass through my hands. Sometimes they don't even have to pass through my hands. Once I picked up a glass from the shelf and it's neighbour paused for a few moments before hurling itself off the edge. Mr Zeus gave me that look, and I protested "But I didn't even touch it this time!" Z2 had witnessed the event and confirmed, between laughs, that I had indeed broken a glass without even touching it.

This winter in Barcelona we acquired two absolutely beautiful handmade champagne flutes decorated with delicate wisps of melted glass. Mr Zeus had wanted to blow the budget and buy a set of six because they were so lovely, but I reminded him who he's living with. They had sat for months on display in a shelf before we put them away, worried that the next rumble of the earth might send them flying.

Two nights ago we were searching for something to sip with our meal and I found a little bottle of champagne someone had given me as a gift. We cracked it open and what better glasses to drink from than our two beautiful, delicate-stemmed Barcelona glasses? And naturally, obviously, I broke mine before I'd even finished my drink. And how I broke it! I went to get seconds and when I sat back down the edge of my plate cracked a line into the top of poor little champagne flute.

Either it was my mega clumsiness at work or I was being punished for a) consuming alcohol in the Holy Month b) making a pig of myself in the Holy Month.

This morning takes the cake, though. I currently have no sense of smell at all and when I woke up today I felt more half dead than half asleep. A strong cup of tea was in order so I set a pot boiling (we are cursed in that every electric kettle we own quickly dies) and began my morning routine of reading online newspapers.

A good ten minutes later I decided to attend to the noisy bubbling of the pot and when I turned, great big orange flames were leaping around next to it. Two kitchen towels that had been too close to the hob had caught fire so silently, so unodourosly, that the whole kitchen and indeed house could have started burning down around me while I sat clicking through the Guardian. I'd be found passed out with my browser clicked onto something embarrassing like "Best of WHAM! In Pictures". The headlines would read "WHAM! Fan dies in Kitchen Inferno".

And that's how flu kills.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Marriage and Babies


I went to a wedding on Saturday where the bride was wearing one of those meringue-skirted, see-through lace bodice creations so popular with brides in Greece. I suppose it's all a matter of taste because to me such princess frocks look positively hideous, but all around me people were oohing and aahing at what a lovely dress it was. The bride looked happy and therefore she looked beautiful. She would probably think my most wanted list of bridal outfits are over the top. Where's Vera Wang when you need her, eh?

Anyway, I was shocked to learn that this dress had cost EUR 1,500, which isn't so bad except that it was RENTED! Who the hell charges that much just to rent a dress, and why would you pay that much for a dress you can't even keep afterwards? For that much I could have any one of these designer creations, but I can't bring myself to splash out that much on an outfit I will most likely only ever wear once (but I could recycle it to attend other weddings, after all no one in Athens will know I'm wearing my wedding dress to a wedding will they).

Excuse me ... sneezing fit... I've been awake since 5.30 this morning with a fever. Damn summer flu.

Weddings, houses, babies. Or more often than not as of late, houses, babies, weddings. Being an extremely lightweight drinker, on our trip in Crete one evening as we sat by the sea with the Milky Way scattered overheard and a glass or two or white wine in my bloodstream, I admitted my burning desire for a baby to Mr Zeus. It wasn't just an admission like "I'd love to have a child," it was a full on, crazy eyed monologue about how badly I want a child and I don't even care if it's not mine, I'll adopt, and I don't care if I get stretchmarks, I'll get over it, that I have to take a deep breath to brace myself each time we're off to meet someone I know is pregnant and that I see babies everywhere and that all the women we know are having babies which they never, ever let me have for just one afternoon even though I've got years of baby care experience and neither do they tell us when we can drop in to see said bundles of joy resulting in four sets of rattles and baby-groes that have ended up stashed under our bed because by the time we get to see the baby they're too big for the clothes I buy and that sometimes when I'm sitting watching TV in the evenings I feel positively forlorn that I don't have a little person to take care of and feed and fuss over and wash their little clothes.

I stopped talking and held my head. "Am I being ridiculous?" I asked Mr Zeus. But he was too busy laughing at me to answer. Finally, he said "All in good time."

Indeed. And I know he's right. But I still want a baby. If any of you have one, please let me borrow it for an afternoon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Life in the Jungle


A side-effect of Athens living is that everyone is living in everyone else's pockets. I have the misfortune of living in a neighbourhood with not one but two of those horrendous little white dogs that bark endlessly. One lives in the flat above, the other across the road. They usually are content sitting on their own balconies barking pointlessly into the wee hours of the morning, but every so often they both end up on facing balconies and then all hell breaks loose.

I am not ashamed to admit that during sleepless summer nights I have more than once contemplated climbing the metal staircase and sending the offending mutt wailing over the balcony.

Last night I was sitting on the bed reading a Bill Bryson with the radio playing. Pointless Mutt upstairs was barking. Someone else was banging on a door for ages. All of a sudden a ferocious fight broke out.

Over the music I could hear a man and a woman screaming bloody murder at each other. I resisted turning off the radio and listening in. It was none of my business. The fight continued and finally the curiosity got the better of me and I switched off the radio. Now, here is what happens each time I try to eavesdrop. The fight will be going all guns blazing until my curiosity gets the better of me and I try to listen in. Then the fight instantly tunes down.

Same thing happened last night. I could only make out snatches of a conversation that seconds earlier had been louder than my music. "...that idiot... what you want... no!... you can forget it .... I .... my child ..." and lots of booming shouting in between. I could gather from the tones of voice that the man was furious and the woman was talking in that high pitched, grating voice certain women have. She was not shouting, but she was obviously busy pushing all the man's buttons because every self-righteous quip from her resulted in a furious explosion from him.

The one time I did hear everything was when some couple in the neighbourhood were making love not war. It was one of the weirdest and most disconcerting experiences. I heard every sigh, every whisper, every shout, even the sound of the bed. The couple could have been right outside my window, which I couldn't shut on such a hot night (in every sense of the word, ho ho!).

I shrank away into my pillow, embarrassed about having no choice but to hear every moment of an almost obnoxiously long night of passion and mortified that if I could hear them, then it was perfectly possible that vice versa applied too...

Now that the weather is turning I can close another chapter of summer eavesdropping for this year. I feel a little down about it. I already have my first cold and feel that the summer didn't last nearly long enough. In the part of the Home Country where I lived, summer was so long that it left no room for Autumn, sprawling across a full seven months of the year and leaving a little bit of room in between for the monsoons before taking over again. And so our seasons ran: Winter, Spring, Summer, Monsoon, Summer, Winter.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Back

The first sign that Z2 might not have been the best person to leave in charge of my plants while I went on holiday was when I tried to be him a house-warming plant and he said he doesn't like plants. No wonder my plants looked like they had just been liberated from a plant concentration camp when I got back. It's okay though, because they bounced back very well.


Crete was great. The people of Crete are so nice and welcoming that they make Athenians looks miserable and Londoners look infinitely worse. We had a totally chilled out time in the South of Crete, swimming, eating, sleeping, listening to Egyptian radio stations and sitting in babbling brooks until something bit my behind and I didn't do that again. It was refreshing while it lasted.


So here we are now post-holiday and in the Holy month which I so far have done a terrible job of observing. I set my alarm clock each day to wake up for a pre-sunrise meal and each night I change the time again, thinking I'll start a day later. I did it again today. So I've had breakfast and I won't eat or drink another thing till sunset now, which isn't playing by the rules but should help me get into the spirit of things.



The reason I like fasting is that is makes me feel like I earned the party at the end of it. And this year I won't be caught out. I'm going to make sure my new moon party is well planned and all guests well informed.



I will post again soon. This was a bit of a lame post.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

...


It turns out there is a variety of things you can do to make a long face go away. First of all, I cleaned up the place a little, especially the bathroom which, owing to no free time in the last two weeks, I had turned into an artistic installation of a real-life Bombay slum toilet.

Then just as I hit my lowest eb, Z2 popped over for his occassional afternoon chat. Z2 has a strange double effect on me. Whenever I feel down, he almost always succeeds in making me feel even worse due to his negative attitude to everything in life except getting laid.

We got onto the topic of natural childbirth (there has been an avalanche of babies in our social circle, not one of them naturally born) and the over medicalisation of childbirth in Greece. I said how I hoped to find a doctor who was pro-natural childbirth, maybe even pro-homebirth but how would I get a recommendation when everyone I know in Athens was carted off for a Caesarean? "Basically, you're screwed." he told me, and then fell about laughing. I didn't find it very funny at all.

But even though he makes me feel terrible when he should be making me feel better, he is also really nice to me so when he asked what would cheer me up I suggested a trip to the bakery and that's what we did. A few chocolate biscuits later, things were starting to look up.

I filled the gaping silence in my life with interesting documentary podcasts from BBC Radio 4 which allowed me to work and be entertained at the same time. Then I used my lunchbreak to get some laughs off Alien Loves Predator.

Tomorrow I'm going to Crete for a week. I think in the end that's what I really need. All work and no play makes Bollybutton a psychotic bitch.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Directionless


As of late I am moving in no particular direction. I spent two weeks at work trying to meet an avalanche of deadlines with steely determination. This week, all the determination is gone. It started on Monday when I discovered that I had actually missed my final deadline on Friday due to a miscommunication at work.

That one tiny grain of complaint has snowballed into epic proportions and sits festering in the corner of whatever room I happen to be in. I'm sick of this tiny flat where one misplaced glass or book instantly makes any room look untidy. I'm sick of the Greek inability to throw anything away which means that if there were ever an earthquake, I would be killed by the fall of tons of useless rubbish that have been crammed into every storage space we have. If I could I would clear out all this crap - tattered old clothes and books, broken stuff, mystery pieces of plastic, reams of loose paper, brochures, lamps, stamps and homeless tramps - and burn the whole lot in the middle of the road. Except the tramps.

I'm sick of the sprinkling of spots that moved from their winter camp on my forehead to their summer camp on my cheeks and won't leave no matter what I do. How much money do I need to spend to kill you off you little b@stards! Do I look like I get paid in Clinique products? I'm sick of my job in which I have absolutely no interest and sick of constantly having my work picked apart by my superiors. Okay! I suck at my job! I know that! You don't have to spell it out in flowcharts and bullet points!

That's a lot of things to be sick of. I'm just having an off week I suppose. There are a whole host of benefits that come with working from home but there are also a whole host of cons. Lately I am feeling acutely lonely sitting here all day with no one to talk to. Mr Zeus left the house with specific orders for me to not have a long face today when he comes back. Is there anything you can take for that? I've been self medicating with red wine for two nights now, and I still don't feel any better.

I feel completely directionless. I've spent two days just staring at the computer. It's like my brain has overloaded and shut down. What should I tidy first? It all comes back within nanseconds. What topic should I tackle at work? It always comes back to me for corrections. What should I wax first? The hair just seems to migrate to another part of my body.

I wish I could go home and roll up under a duvet and be taken care of by my mummy.

Image: http://www.aimlesstangents.com/Header%20copy.jpg

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Where to Buy Asian Ingredients in Athens


Asia is hands down the best continent in this whole wide world for food. Sure some of us may eat dogs, cats and snakes, but where else will you find such gastronomic variety? We are kings of the culinary castle, and one thing I sorely miss about not living in London is easy access to whatever Asian food takes my fancy, be it Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian or etc. Sometimes I feel like I would give my left leg for some roti chanai and coconut curry.

This Sunday, Kathimerini newspaper published their Gastronomos magazine with a Chinese cuisine theme in tribute to the Olympics and it turned out to be an absolute goldmine. Within its pages was a directory of shops selling otherwise hard to find ingredients like sauces, marinades, spices, all types of noodles and cooking equipment.

So, my little dumplings, here is that directory of shops selling Asian delights for your perusal:

Wok Shop
Elaion 35
Neo Kifisia
http://www.wokshop.gr/
ph: 210 62 06 008

Supplies several Chinese restaurants in Athens. Sells ingredients, cookbooks, equipment and frozen dim sum. Complies with local food safety standards.


Taste of Asia
Ag. Konstantinou
Glyfada
ph: 210 89 82 253
Sells ingredients and equipment. In business for 17 years now.

Dong Fang
Leovidou 25
Kerameikos
ph: 210 52 26 677
General market selling everything including rice noodles in bulk or by the packet. The staff speak neither Greek nor English so if you don't know what something is, take a wild guess.

International Market
Saxtouri 15
Peiraios
ph: 210 45 17 835
Big choice of cooking sauces, rice wine, ready made spring rolls and spring roll sheets.

Asia Market
Terpsitheas 5
Nea Smirni
ph: 210 98 48 795
Supplier to Chinese restaurants. Among its wares are ready made sauces, preserved vegetables, spring rolls and spring roll sheets.

Salamat
Korinthos 24
Ambelokipi
www.salamat.gr
ph: 210 77 96 766

The photograph accompanying the article about this market shows the owner, Fotis Blaxos, holding a durian. So if they sell durian, they must sell practically everything. Various types of noodles, sauces, ready dim sum and cooking utensils are also mentioned.

Supermarkets:
Thanopoulos, AB supermarket and Carrefour all carry selections of ingredients for Asian cooking. I get my coconut milk from AB.

Also worth checking out:
Soya Japan
Apollonos 15
Syntagma
www.soya-japan.gr
ph: 210 33 10 385

Japanese goodies, instant noodles and cooking ingredients.

Indian Ingredients:
For Indian food, go to any of the shops downtown near Omonio on Menandrou street. You can find everything there, including all the spices you need, seasonal Indian vegetables and 5 kg bags of basmati at really good prices. Sometimes they even have delicious freshly made samosas. Most Greeks don't like going there because on weekends throngs of South Asian men tend to gather outside the shops to hang out. Also drug pushers and prostitutes come and go, but I wouldn't call it unsafe. I've been there at various times of the day on my own and never had any trouble.

And there you have it! I'm hoping for some free time when I can go and check out these shops, maybe even find some of my favourite brands of Malaysian instant noodle. Yum yum!

Image: http://www.cardinal.gr/images/000136.jpg

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Things are getting fishy...


Further evidence of weirdness at Beijing 2008. This for example would never have happened at Athens 2004. I feel so incredibly sorry for this little girl. Her moment of glory was completely stolen from her. Shame on the organisers of the opening ceremony.


If the link doesn't work, it leads to a story of a little girl named Yang Peiyi (bottom picture). It was her voice that was heard singing Ode to the Motherland at the opening ceremony, but in her place appeared Lin Miaoke (top picture) who has gone on to become a national star because poor little Yang Peiyi was not considered cute enough to appear on camera. Apparently the decision was taken for the sake of the nation. How awful! Nice way to teach little girls in China that looks matter more than anything else. Take a look at the picture. Do you think Yang Peiyi wasn't cute enough to represent the nation?


Faked opening ceremony sequences, lessons in smiling, using cheer squad volunteers to pack out stadiums (this was really, really obvious to anyone watching any event), banning athletes from taking to the winner's podium with their national flags... what a pity.

Holiday Homes for Plants

If I make it through this week and the next without both my arms overtyped into disllocation, Mr Zeus and I are heading off to Crete for this year's holiday. My only categories for choosing a holiday destination this summer were that it should have ample facilities for doing nothing, have nice waters to swim in and not have any drunk British tourists near us.

Summer holidays are great but they have the unfortunate side effect of being the kiss of death for our plants. Every year without fail things go well until we go on holiday and then everything dies because no one waters them. This year I have managed to grow a flourishing Thai chilli plant, three plumerias and two lemongrass plants entirely from seed.

The lemongrass was a real headache to grow and only yielded two viable plants out of a packet of 50 seeds - the rest were far too delicate and gave up the ghost each time I transplanted them. Maybe they missed Asia. I know the feeling.

Anyway, if anything should happen to these particular plants that I have nourished from birth, I would be extremely upset. So I have to recruit someone to take charge of my most precious babies and ensure their survival for 8 days. Failing that, I wonder if I can take them with me to Crete?

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's Been An Eventful Few Days

Let's kick off first and foremost with the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony. I am biased so I'm not the best person to ask seeing as Athens 2004 forever has a place in my heart but nevertheless Beijing's opening ceremony was pretty impressive. I loved the fireworks and the futuristic elements; the Olympic rings rising off the ground was a breathtaking moment as were the synchronised drummers at the start. I can't imagine the amount of work and preparation that went into the whole thing.

The one element that I think let the ceremony down was the scores and scores of people. If you were in the Athens 2004 ceremony, there is a good chance you could spot yourself on screen at some point and say "Look! There I am!" No such chance in the Beijing ceremony, most of the people didn't even make it onto the screen and it's a pity because all of them worked so hard.

So kudos to Beijing who have raised the bar almost impossibly high for London 2012. I'm so curious to see what London will do. 1000 synchronised yobs fighting? 2000 drunk teenagers vomiting in time to music? The Olympic rings formed out of fish and chips? Alright, alright! Calm down I was only (half) joking.

Whatever it will be, I have lived in the UK for 10 years and watched them make disasters of events that should have been glorious. The words organise, piss up, brewery come to mind. Moments to note are the Millennium Dome and anything that involves "modernising" the tube system. Bring on 2012, I'll be standing in the sidelines and cringing. I hope I'll be proven wrong but the track record proves otherwise.

So as of late I am reliving all my fond memories of my volunteering days and plastered various Facebook group walls with messages of a Athens 2004 volunteer reunion down by Syntagma fountain on Friday night. I was there as was another volunteer friend, both of us dressed in our uniforms. We waited. Someone approached us but it was only a lost tourist. A lady approached the fountain wearing an Athens 2004 volunteer shirt, but she kept on walking. Either she had decided on some spontaneous reminiscing too or saw the two crazy eyed people waiting at the fountain and decided she didn't want any part of it. The clock ticked on, no one else came. So we went off and had a two-person cocktail party. Champagne cocktails, might I add.

Sadly, my splurge on Friday night moved onto scrounge on Saturday morning. I went downtown to kill some time and look at the sales, and just look I did. We are in the process of trying to build a place for us to live seeing as me and Mr Zeus no longer fit in this bachelor flat we call home. As the expense involved in such an endeavour even at the paperwork stage keeps adding up, it was look but don't buy for me. I whetted my appetite for meaningless consumerism by trying on clothes I liked and putting them all back again. Honestly, a nun in a room full of male Calvin Klein underwear models would display less self control than me.

I thought about the super-rich stratospheres of Athens where you can buy whatever you like and the stories Mr Zeus' niece tells me of the clients in the salon where she works, ladies who delight in the constant spending of their husbands' money to get EUR 1000+ hair extensions that only have to be taken out again after a month. Who has that kind of money? What do these people look like? I would soon find out.

I got to know a lady who is living and working in Athens for a few months with a big name company and we became friends. Said big name company has put her up in the Hilton for months on end and I finally got around to exercising my sycophantic muscles and dropped in for a visit on Saturday afternoon.

We hung out in the Executive lounge, in her Acropolis view executive room, the pool, the jacuzzi and the sauna. I had never been in a jacuzzi or a sauna before, the latter being akin to sitting in your car in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a Greek summer. It was great fun. The pool at the Hilton otherwise costs EUR 55 for mortals to use which is nuts when you have the sea for free so close by.

After cleaning up we next headed to the Galaxy Bar where my friend once spotted Billy Zane who she confirmed is hotter in real life. It was all so glamorous and there was me in the summer dress I had been wearing all day. Oh well, that soft lighting and a few drinks make anyone look good. I took a napkin to prove that I'd been there.

Now it's a sad and work-packed Monday morning and I have to console myself with my fun weekend, yesterday's summer shower and the glorious, the-gods-must-be-happy sunset that followed.