Thursday, May 21, 2009

Four Legs Good, Two Legs Bad

This morning I got a nasty shock when I went outside to silence our dog barking. I admit he is a problem barker, but I was not prepared to find a piece of aluminium foil pushed under the fence containing two biftekia smothered with a rancid smelling blue liquid.

Without having the decency to come and talk to us about our dog's barking being disturbing, or even to leave a note, someone had tried to poison our dog. An animal that is only following its protective instincts. Lately I've been running errands in the mornings before work, and I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn't been at home to check why he was barking and find him curiously sniffing at the "treat" left for him.

The people in the apartment building opposite saw me and my Greek sister (sister in law) shaking our heads over the poisoned meat and ushered us over. Apparently, someone in the neighbourhood had come to the building opposite ours and given the family's details in an attempt to convince the people in that building to make a complaint about us to the police.

What kind of people are these that would poison an animal without even approaching the owners first? Death by poisoning is a very slow and painful way to die. The animal suffers beyond belief. A dog of mine in the Home Country was poisoned and vomited blood for days before his poor little body could no longer take any more.

Lots of people in our neighbourhood keep dogs, and lots of them bark. One dog in particular yaps all day and all night in the summer. But I feel our dog was particularly targeted because he is a Doberman, and this breed has the mistaken stereotype of being vicious. Anyone who ever had a Doberman as a pet knows what silly, playful and lovable animals they are. Whoever tried to poison him must have thought that he's only being kept as a guard dog and not as a pet, so his death would only be an nuisance and carry no emotional weight for the owners.

Animal poisoning is very common in Greece so I don't know why I was so shaken today. I just had faith that my neighbourhood was populated by people with some decency and values, not barbarians who think its okay to torture another living creature.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Europe's Bad Taste on Display at Eurovision

In the UK, representing the country for Eurovision is considered career suicide. It gets an ok following, but the last few years people got bored of the political voting and stopped watching. Hey, no one likes being reminded that the whole playground thinks you're a bully and won't play with you.

In Greece though, Eurovision is such a big deal that the chat shows dedicate blanket coverage to the goings on of the contest in the two weeks running up to the finals. Even my favourite chat show "Κοιτάω μπροστά" (Looking Ahead) sacrificed an afternoon to Eurovision, which I was most disappointed about. More on Κοιτάω μπροστά another time, it's the daytime TV equivalent of cocaine.

When our dear superstar Sakis picked his song, I was doubtful. It didn't sound Eurovisiony enough to me. But oh well, Eurovision's biggest audience is women and gay men, so Sakis was sure to bring the votes in. I'm crazy about Eurovision and missed out on attending it when it was held in Greece because it was too close to an important exam. But I thought never mind, Sakis is totally selling the whole Next-Year-Eurovision-On-A-Greek-Island thing. Who could possible resist that?

And then along came some Norwegian guy who still hasn't gotten over some girl he went out with and moaned about it to all of Europe. And Europe in a display of terrible taste gave him a landslide victory. Why am I surprised? Last year's Russian entry was equally shit and only won because of political voting.

I have things to say to the following parties about this heinous miscarriage of justice:

1. Now, Europe. Obviously you're all sentimental fools nursing broken hearts. I get that. We've all been there - the one that got away, the one I was so in love with, blah blah blah. But JESUS!! GET OVER IT! Couldn't you have just got some therapy instead of ruining my Eurovision dreams, and those of Sakis and all of Greece?? Don't you know who Sakis is? He's like a god here! I hope you're satisfied with what you've done. Go freeze your asses off in Norway next year and think of this as your extremeties loose sensation:

"I could have been in Greece right now if I'd voted for Sakis."

2. Northern Europe, who voted so shabbily for Greece - thanks for nothing. You all come here in flocks in the summer, stealing our jobs and our women and our sunloungers and forcing us to see your pasty white bodies turn red under the Greek sun. You come here all the time, year after year, and we're nice to you. The least you could have done was voted for Greece, how bloody ungrateful can you get?!

3. Sweden - I hear your Eurovision presenters has some rather nasty things to say about Sakis and his enthusiastic shirt ripping. I'd like to see you sing and dance like that at the same time with not even a wobble in your voice. Not even big international stars can dance like that and sing live, including Madonna who always mimes when doing yoga onstage. Furthermore, take notes of subclause a and b below:

a) You sent some terrifying manwoman to represent your country.

b) If it's going out of fashion for the Greek boys to chase the Swedish girls on holiday, that's not Sakis's fault.

4. Sakis, it was with a heavy heart that I watched your unnecessary apology to Greece. It's not your fault that Europe has bad taste in music. My tip for next time is: when shirt ripping is in progress, accidental or otherwise, go for it and rip it right off. That would have at least doubled your votes.

5. Russian cameramen - you didn't do too good a job. Don't you know who Dita Von Tees is?

6. Finally, Norwegian winner. Thanks to you we will have to listen to everyone else's miserable love stories next year.

On merrier notes, I thought it was a really good contest this year. I was sure the competition was going to be very tight. Landslide victories are no fun to watch. I thought Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan all had fun songs and I was happy to see my cheesey pal Arash again.

We were watching the contest with some friends and the disappointment in the air was tangible. When the last vote came in, with Greece about 300 points off winning, a member of the gang said "That's it guys, we lost"

You gotta admire that sort of optimism, not losing hope till the last moment.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Big Brother Isn't Watching Me

The Greek government spends most of its time being disasterously out of touch with its people, so I was delighted to hear that Google's Street View cars have been banned from picturing the streets of Greece in order to protect the privacy of the public.

Echoing a widespread view, Yannis Papadopoulos, a Greek leftist who agreed with the watchdog's precautionary stance, said: "Privacy as a concept or even word may not exist in our language but all this snooping is simply Orwellian. We won't let it pass."

Street View seemed like a cool idea to me, until I started reading about people who had been caught by the cameras in the privacy of their own homes half-dressed, or in other compromising positions, and could not get their image removed from Google. So there you were admiring yourself in some newly purchased Y fronts, and all of a sudden the whole world is watching.

What I didn't like about the article is that it starts off painting this move as a reluctance on the part of Greeks to embrace new technology. True as that may be, it certainly doesn't apply in this context. This is about the protection of individual privacy, not a fear of new technology.

Hooray! A rare step in the right direction by the Greek government!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bolly Biscuits!

Henceforth, the only biscuits allowed in the BollyZeus household are those by biscuit makers Papadopoulos.

This song was composed by Oscar winner AR Rahman who did the music for Slumdog Millionaire. Told you he was a genius!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bollybutton Becomes Bridezilla

I'm ashamed to say I had a bust up with Mr Zeus the other day because my imagined small and personal wedding has turned into a Wedding Beast with a life of its own and upwards of 200 guests on the list. I'm watching the wedding madness unfold around me and feeling like Toula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when everyone takes over the wedding, the guests, the invitations etc.

All this was making me supremely pissed off, so I've decided that if I can't beat them, I'll join them. No point feeling irritated that things aren't going your way. All that "It's YOUR big day" stuff is nonsense anyway. Anyone who's been on the inside of a wedding knows that the last person the "big day" is about is the bride and groom.

I realised that things were getting truly stupid - why were we wasting our time arguing about this sort of thing? Since I was never someone who sat around imagining what my wedding would be like, who cares how it turns out! It's only one day in my life after all. It will be perfect whichever way it turns out because I am to all intents and purporses married anyway to Mr Zeus. Plus, I will finally have all the people I love in one spot altogether for the first time - my own family and my Greek family. So why sweat the small stuff?

Besides, as Mr Zeus said, it's not like I'm Swedish. I have adequate training for Wedding Beasts from life in the Home Country. This wedding pales in comparison to some of the mayhem I've witnessed.

I was on the phone with one of my sisters and we were recalling a wedding we had gone to in our neighbourhood as children. A wedding in the Home Country lasts a minimum of three days - the henna party, the wedding and the reception. The wedding is paid for by the bride's side and the reception by the groom's side. The reception is like another wedding, involving a whole new set of lavish clothes for the bride. That outfit is usually chosen by your mother-in-law, and many times I used to feel they picked something deliberately hideous just to spite the bride.

Those are the three basic ceremonies, but people who like to show off add any number of auxillary and pointless ceremonies. Each one takes up a separate day, and so once we ended up going to a week-long wedding that ran as follows:

  1. The Yes Ceremony - To celebrate the couple accepting the engagement. Whatever, it's not like they had a choice to say no.

  2. The Engagement Ceremony - The exchanging of rings takes place

  3. The Oil Ceremony - The bride gets her hair oiled. All the female guests take turns adding a drop at a time. Yeah, pointless. It was running down her face by the time we were done.

  4. The Ubtan Ceremony - The female guests take turns applying a traditional bridal skin scrub to the bride. WTF right? This is usually done in private without any ceremony to go along. I mean, I don't see anyone coming to my bathroom to exfoliate my elbows. Am I missing out?

  5. The Henna Ceremony - Fun times. My favourite part of any wedding

  6. The Wedding

  7. The Reception

Don't be fooled. Each one of those days involved lavish settings, decorations to the house and full-on wedding meals. It was awful. By the time we got to the wedding we just didn't care any more. Everyone was feeling like they had run a marathon and our mother was at her wits end because each of the seven days required a different outfit for us.

So all I have done is slightly re-wired my brain to think Asian Wedding not European Style wedding, and things are feeling more manageable already.

Today I think I got my marriage licence, but it's come stapled with something to the front that I can'y make head nor tail of, and I don't see our dates anywhere on the papers so I don't know what else is left to do. Did I miss a step or something?

The most upsetting thing of all was that the Mayor's office keeps all the papers I submitted. Including my Apostille stamped birth certificate. Weep!!! I'll have to go through all that again if I ever need a birth certificate copy in Greece, which I probably will at some point.

But anyway, looks like summer finally decided to make an appearance and it was about damn time.

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Little Post for my Little Man

There is only one male on this planet who can stick his feet under my nose and command, "Smell!" and I'll do it. My beloved godson, the one I faked Christianity for.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Message in a Bottle

The Guardian newspaper is running a fun story on readers' letters to their younger selves, and while I may not be the wisest of people, I think there are some things I would have loved my younger self to have known:

To Bollybutton, roughly 10 years ago:

1. You're in your late teens now and still an ugly duckling. You've in fact convinced yourself that you'll never be attractive and are okay with that, which is an achievement since even I have to tell you, you are quite hideous right now. But that's mostly your fault because you reject any form of beautification as anti feminist. On that front, you should know it does get better, and actually this period will turn out to round you off nicely as a person, because you know you can't wing it on looks so you focus on other aspects of your personality.

2. The most shocking thing I have to tell you from the future is that you are working in a bank. Yes, as much as it pains me to say this, your parents were right about your career choices, and a lot of other things. You should not have studied journalism at university. Actually, you should have not gone to uni. You should have started working at the local paper if you were really serious about the journalism thing.

But you do go to university where you pretty much waste all your free time doing nothing. You should have joined the uni newspaper at least, you lazy bum.

3. Since you didn't listen and went to university, my note from the future is to let your hair down more. Smoke some pot! Have some drinks! Go to all the parties! You know how you say now you are determined to live your life without ever touching a drop of alcohol? Well, that gets blown to dust after you meet the love of your life in 2004, and all you think is: "Why did I wait so long to try this?"

4. On that note, and this will shock you to death because you are so dead set on this one, you don't save sex till marriage either, and all you think is: "Why did I wait so long to try this?"

5. At the end of your university life, you meet someone. Now, trust me, you didn't like this guy when you met him at the start of your university life, so why change a good thing. But seriously, you made this more complicated than it had to be.

Either sleep with him or cut yourself loose right now. Since you're going to get yourself tangled up anyway, don't bother moping about it for as long as you did, it really is no big deal in the end. There are worse things in life than getting cheated on. *slap* Get over it!

6. Real life will come as a terrible shock to you and you will sink to such a miserable low at the end of 2003 that you'll wish death upon yourself every day, mostly because all your illusions got shattered at the same time and you can't cope. It does start to make more sense though.

7. Look in the mirror. See how flawless your skin is? Why didn't you notice that more, especially when all your girlfriends told you how great your skin was? Do you think you got away with the spots thing because you're done with puberty? Well. I've got news for you, girl!

8. You're going to be one of those women who takes care of her men like he's a little baby.

9. Don't be so angry. The world goes on, and though right now you believe that if you fan the flames of your passion for change, something will happen, the truth is it won't. Observe the world, keep going to protests, but don't be so convinced that people like you will change something.

10. Go home to visit your parents more often. I mean, you do well, but in a couple of years you're going to up and move to another country (yipee!) but when you do this, you will acutely regret all those weekends and holidays when you could have been at home with your family. Spending half-term with your friends will not be what you remember. You'll just regret not spending that half-term with your sisters and parents.

11. Don't you talk to your mother like that!

12. Also, enjoy your trips to the Home Country more often. In these years, you get to go for four, sometimes five or six weeks at a time. Don't roll around complaining that you're starting to feel bored and missing your friends in the UK. Since those years have passed, you have not managed to go back for longer than 10 days.

You think the Home Country will always be there to visit, but if only you could see the mess of a country it will become. If you knew this, you'd spend your whole summer holidays there. I can't even tell you if the Home Country will still exist in another 5 years, let alone 10, because I don't know any more.

13. On these visits, spend more time with your Uncle and Aunty. They won't be around much longer.

14. Make more of an effort to talk to your Dad in his mother tongue. The man has spent upwards of 20 years talking to you in English. You will learn the comforting effects of hearing your mother tongue when you are forced to learn a new language, and you'll start restricting your conversations with your father to his dialect, but you're pretty hopeless at it. If you start now, you might do better.

15. You finally get to go to the Olympics! And it sparks a domino affect that changes your life.

16. You turn out to be a lot braver than you thought, and do a lot of the things which you used to say "I could never do that"

17. Boots discontinuing your favourite hair mousse is not cause for firing off page long emails to your friends about what to do, how your hair looks today, etc etc. How the hell can you spend so much energy on such pointless things?

18. You will never again get the social opportunities university offers you. You could learn so much through the student societies - new dances, new languages, new cultures, music. This chance will never, ever reappear. Don't waste it. Out of all your friends who you waste your time with instead of growing as a person, only about 3 or 4 will still be with you in 2009.

19. Be nicer to your older sister. You will learn later what she's trying to cope with.

20. To finish, in 2009 you will be happy. You're still worrying over stupid things which in 10 years you'll feel like an idiot about. But you are happy. You feel reborn. You have learnt to see beautiful things all around you and enjoy good company as if it were a glass of cold water on a hot day. You are buzzing with optimism for the future. You value life for what it is in all its colours, a precious gift which we only get one chance at. You don't miss the past and your childhood as much as you did 10 years ago. You still sit around on your ass too much though.

What do you wish you could tell your teenage self?