Thursday, July 29, 2010

Get Thee to the Gym

At the risk of this post rating so low on the average reader's I-give-a-shit-about-this scale to as not even register, I joined a gym!

Actually, I joined a gym five months ago now. What can I say, something about the looming 28th birthday must have spurred me into action. I spent my whole life until 24 eating whatever the hell I wanted and not gaining a micogram. Seriously, I used to eat fried lunches every day simply because I could. I never skipped desert when eating out and baptised all my cake in baths of double cream. Just because I frickin' could! Thems was the days!

But to my own shock and horror it occurred to me that these happy circumstances might not continue forever, after turning 25 and the appearance of everyone's best friend, cellulite. Especially since fitting into the first pair of jeans I ever bought in Athens is now nothing but a distant dream. I couldn't even get half a butt cheek into them any more, so I got rid of them, by the way, lest they make me feel bad about myself.

I decided to join the nearest gym I could find, knowing myself to be much too lazy to take a bus trip to a cheaper one, and all sorts of hilarity ensued. "I'm interested in your evening classes" I exclaimed, innocent still of what was to follow.

The trainer looked me up and down. "Have you been to a gym before?" he asked.


"You might not survive the classes then."

Day one and the trainer took me around the equipment and made me do a few sets of exercises on the various machines. Yes, I was so unfit I actually had to be prepped for about a month before they made me a programme.

It didn't go too badly until we got onto doing leg curls. I tried one. "Oh God!" I wailed "I can't do this! Can you take some more weight off? I'm dying!"

The trainer said "Um... there aren't any weights on there. You're just working with the weight of the machine." Feeling like my thighs would snap off and slide down my knees, I persevered.

At the end of session one, the trainer warned me I might feel sore the next morning. I did feel a little sore the following day but nothing I couldn't handle, I thought valiantly, envisioning being able to crack open walnuts with my thighs in a week's time. Session two went much like session one. And the next morning I felt like every muscle in my body had been lovingly bathed in acid all night.

The pain! I thought I would never walk again. And yet I had to still keep going to the gym in order to stop it getting worse. I wondered when I stopped loving myself enough to voluntarily inflict so much suffering on my poor body.

Anyway, that was a good few months ago and believe it or not, I love the gym now. Here are some interesting things I have observed about my local Athenian gym (though it's not like I ever went to another one in the UK to be able to compare):

1. The serious people go in the morning. That's when you'll find me too, but only because I know if I leave it the rest of the day I will talk myself out of exercising

2. People bring their toddlers with them! I've seen this more than once. If you tried that in the UK someone would come screaming at you with a Health and Safety manual.

3. The beefcakes go in the evening and hog all the machines and make constipated sounds

4. The chicks hunting for beefcakes go in the evening too, with perfect hair and makeup. They consistently fail to work up a sweat. I admire their determination for beefcake baiting - gyms are expensive to join.

5. The male trainers are much easier on you than the female ones. But the female ones are much more understanding of what you want to achieve and determined to get you there dead or alive. Most likely dead in my case.

So there you have it. I can add "Joining a gym and following a gym programme in Greek" to my list of things I have achieved in my continuing, ever expanding adventure of life in Greece.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Greek Government Says Everything Now a Luxury!

The Greek government this month raised Value Added Tax from 21% to 23% and is considering doing away with the 11% tax bracket for non luxury items like food.

"We're asking the Greek people to be a little patient while we ride out this crisis'" said Prime Minister George Papandreou, "This means making a few more sacrifices, like food."


Fashion student Maria, 19, agreed that food is overrated. "Which is why I try to get by on fresh air. The fashion industry is a bitch."

But shoppers at Greek supermarkets were less than enthusiastic. A housewife who wished not to be named said she was still coming to shop, filling her trolley and then emptying it again. "Sort of like shopping bulimia" she added.

Stavros Spyridakis, 29, free camping in the national gardens added "I'm not free camping. This is the only place I can afford to live now. But I guess it's for my own good, as the government says."

A spokesperson for the KKE Communist party of Greece blamed the bourgeois upper classes for witholding the food and driving up the prices in collaboration with the US and Israel, while the far right party, LA.OS insisted it had hard evidence that the immigrants were operating on a stealth policy of starving ethnic Greeks out of existence.

They made a giant curry out of all the food. Try eating that, Niko!

Meanwhile the government appealed for calm and insisted this new measure was for a better, more stable and happier Greece. Greek nationals all agree that they can't recall being unhappy in the first place.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Julia, Please make another Sex Tape!

All everyone is talking about these days is the deepening economic crisis. So far, we've played it down, but I think the time has come to admit that yes, it is that bad.

A walk around my neighbourhood reveals shop after shop that has closed and let the premises out. The most tragic of these closures was the clothes shop in my neighbourhood that sold extremely ugly, extremely expensive clothes. It was also named Up Just. No matter how many times I turned it around in my head I couldn't understand what they were trying to get at with a name like that. I guess someone really did just pull it out of their ass.

Up Just was more than a bastion of ugliness, it was the source of many laughs from visitors and a useful landmark for giving directions to my house. Many was the summer evening when I would pass it and be impressed that the clothes had got even uglier (T-shirt with a picture of some girl, seemingly taken with a webcam, anyone?) and the shop that never had a single customer inside.

Personally I always believed it was a money laundering operation. That, and this Chinese restaurant downtown that I have NEVER seen a single customer dining in, and I've passed it nearly every Wednesday for four years now.

On the plus side, the sales have not really stopped since the winter, resulting in prices that are actually close to what the stores should be charging anyway. For example, a Body Shop body brush that costs GBP 7 in the UK costs EUR 14 in Athens. With a 50% sale, it comes pretty much on par with the UK price.

Sadly, supermarkets do not do blowout sales. And that's a shame, because we can all cut a few corners but when it comes to food, we can't look at out bills and say "No more food this month, kids! We'll survive on fresh air and love!" Supermarkets in Greece are some of the most expensive in Europe. A typical monthly shop costs me about EUR 200, and that's just staple items, not a trolley full of champagne. Brand loyalty has gone out the window. I just buy what's cheapest, and I think everyone else is doing the same.

Tourism is down, despite the GBP 200 for 7 nights, all inclusive to Kos and other such places that I saw in the UK. Not in my wildest dreams could I get that deal internally - it would be cheaper to fly to the UK and then fly back on such a package holiday. That's just wrong! Think about the hotel owners making jack shit out of deals like that. As Flubberwinkle so perfectly puts it, we live in Greece but can't afford a holiday here!

We're all bored to tears about hearing that the economy is getting worse and worse, and I don't think we've hit the bottom yet. Everyone expects the end of the summer to reveal to us just how shiteous the situation we find ourselves in really is. So enjoy the summer because it's going to be a bumpy ride this Autumn!

I leave you with a song close to all our hearts right now.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

Yesterday I had my first swim of the year! Okay, I'll be honest. I had my first dipping my buttocks in the sea of the year. I took the 171 bus with my friend A to the end of the line in Varkiza and shoe horned myself onto the free beach there, which was more packed than usual thanks to the economic crisis. Pay for the beach? Are you joking?

The 171 was packed, packed with rowdy teenagers too broke to get to the beach any other way. At one point, close to Varkiza it got too much. I started to feel faint and elbowed my way off the bus before spilling into a nearby souvlaki shop, asking for the bathroom.

"Hey," said the guy "You're Bollybutton, aren't you?"
And it turned out that we knew each other through my friend A. Ah, Athens, the city where everyone knows your name! After a splash of water and something cold to drink, we set off on foot to complete our journey.

I left it much too late to take the first swim this year. But all that is coming to an end thanks for having officially failed my Exam from Hell, so I'm not studying for a while. I just enjoyed the sea and her charms, laying back on our towel with A and admiring the blue sky and scatterings of beautiful curly clouds. When on the beach in Greece, life doesn't seem so bad no matter how much you hate your job.

Speaking of which, remember my grand ambitions a few months ago about leaving my job? Well, they came to nothing. I pimped my CV all over the place and got no replies. Conversations with friends revealed that absolutely everyone, Mr Zeus included, hates their job but doesn't dare change it, or if they have tried they are getting no where. Jobs are mysteriously being posted and then not given out. Strangely, realising that jumping ship is not an option when you're jumping off into a shark infested sea has actually made me sober up and get serious. I hate my job, so does just about everyone else on the planet. No big deal. Someone once told me you can do anything you want in life, but not everything you want in life.

Prices are skyrocketing in Greece, pays are being slashed but still somehow people are getting by. As the lady in the post office said with a shrug "This is Greece. We've been through worse!"

On a side note, I have noticed lots of lovely emails in my address. Can I just apologise for the late replies to them, if you've sent a question and need an answer, drop me a comment here so I check my mail and Bollybutton, Agony Aunt will be getting back to you soon.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Clothes Maketh the Man

It's funny the details you remember when under pressure. I was told on a Thursday night that things with Granny were not good, and I should come immediately. I took the first flight I could get on on Friday morning. At least I made it in time.

Over the next two weeks, I was amazed by the rubbish I had packed. A meagre supply of mismatched clothes, enough underwear to force me into a wash-and-wear cycle for two weeks, only one pair of smart shoes and incense sticks. Incense sticks? I mean, really.

On the funeral itself, I had picked out a dress the day before that looked to me like a smart pink shift dress that could be worn in the office too. That is until I sat down and discovered the artful fold in the side was a split that showed no shame and mercy once one was sitting. It rode up embarassingly high.

As for my office, I had taken one pair of office trousers which I promptly got paint on. So I turned up for a few days at work in some rather fanciful combinations that I hoped would pass as office attire. Rather helpfully, my department has been banished to the ground floor so I didn't have to explain the unhappy reasons for my less than snappy dressing.


Speaking of clothes... in the Home Country we have a saying: when the fox gets her tail chopped off, she tries to encourage all her pals to go get theirs cut off too.

Ever since my godson's mother popped the much beloved sprog, she has been trying to get me to do the same. This has culminated in her sending over all the clothes he has grown out of while I was gone. Guys, I am not joking when I tell you there is a mountain of baby things in my doorway. An absolute mountain.

I was supposed to start looking through it this weekend and organise it into piles. But I don't know where to start. Especially with my own potential offspring still being no more than a twinkle in my eye (as my Dad puts it), I don't feel particularly motivated.

But she did tell me that many people have asked her for these things over the years, but she's kept everything just for me. It is a lovely gesture, something you would do for your sister. Should the time ever come, our expenses for stockpiling ammunition would stand at nearly zero since she's included valuable items like a stroller (though this is useless in the car infested pavements of Athens) and a baby seat.

When I used to live in London, I used to wander over to Camden market on the weekend and check things out. I remember one stall that specialised in tie dye baby clothes. Since my lack of creativity has probably led to exam failure, I think I will let rip on this stash of white and blue clothes and turn them into items of dizzyingly colourful delight.

Yeah, I know. My poor future children. Don't feel too sorry for them, they didn't stand much of a chance. The universe tried to spare them by giving me all the normal, conventional baby clothes they could want, but forgot that I have an A at A Level Textiles. Mwahahahaha! And anyway, studies show* that a hippy upbringing is more likely to turn a child into a successful and boring career person.

*I have no evidence to back up this claim
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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Hello chums. I've just got back from a hellish, unscheduled two week trip to the UK. Reason being my grandmother died. I won't delve into family politics, suffice to say the whole experience was roundly awful. The death took place two weeks ago, yet the Church only had time to do the funeral last Thursday.

My poor mother's carefully planned funeral was ruined by a last minute speech by a drunk relative. To top it all, I then sat an exam on Monday which went terribly and finally flew out on Tuesday night. I give this tripe -250 out of 10.

When I landed very early this morning and the first blast of warm air hit my face, I cried great big tears of relief at being back in my dear city, Athens.

This morning things feel strange and disjointed. I can't find things in my kitchen where I'd left them. But I do want to apologise for abandoning you all. I was too busy studying to blog, or even go swimming. I still haven't set foot in the sea.

But since my well planned strategy of 100% study and 0% fun has probably yielded a big fat fail, I am now going back to my normal schedule of blogging and general merriment.

It's good to see you all!