Monday, 30 August 2010

The Gallery - One Sunday in August (or Desperately Seeking Serenity)

2010 has not been our best year.

Like so many in Greece, and elsewhere, the Ovver Arf lost his job in February and although we've managed so far, we're now reaching a critical point. Though I'm working and earning a decent wage, it's just not enough.

The economic outlook is still extremely gloomy here and the job market is utterly static. And during the summer, Greek business goes into semi-hibernation, even at the best of times, so there's nothing to be done til everyone gets back into the swing of things some time in mid-September.

Although the money situation is bad, the worst of it is the effect this shitty state of affairs is having on my Beloved. It's tough on anyone to lose their job and not find a new one quickly but for a Greek man with a strong sense of familial duty (no matter how misguided that may be), it's a real double- or even triple-whammy.
His self-esteem has plummeted and I fear that he is teetering on the precipice of a depression - though of course his male pride would never let him admit to that.

I watch him go through the motions every day, being the life and soul of the party, telling jokes and being the one everyone wants to sit next to. But I see the emptiness in his eyes, I feel the deep sadness welling up in him, and I sense that inside he feels like he's looking into a deep, dark pit.
And it kills me that I can't just wave my magic wand and make it all better...
As an antidote, we are making an effort to get pleasure from the small things in life. The things that cost little or nothing. The things that remind us that we're still alive, that we're loved and that we're living in a beautiful world. That things will work out in the end, one way or another.

That's what this past Sunday was about for us - desperately seeking serenity in our small blessings....

...things like waking up and looking past your geraniums and basil bushes to a beautiful morning.
Like knowing that our son is growing up happy and healthy....

....and that he has friends, the most precious thing life can give us.

That we have access to clean water...

...and plenty of food, every day.

That we can take solace in a glass of iced coffee, a trashy novel and half an hour to ourselves...

...and that there are people we can reach out to, talk to, to remind us that we are not alone.

This Gallery and its accompanying self-indulgent burbling was inspired by Tara at Stocky Fingers, who this week set The Gallery theme as "One day in August". She did so in honour of the three Mummy bloggers who set off on the day in question (Sunday 29 August) for Bangladesh to help raise awareness for the work being done by Save The Children there.

It's rather humbling, especially after wallowing in my own bout of self-pity, to be reminded how lucky we all are and how much we take for granted.

True, we all have our problems, but having to miss out on summer hols and not quite knowing how to make the next mortgage payment pale into insignificance when compared to the dilemma of a mother faced with the choice of risking giving her child contaminated water or seeing them suffer the agonies of dehydration.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010


Please support this very worthy trip by a group of Mummy bloggers to highlight the work being done by Save The Children in line with the UN Millenium Development Goals http://www.mummy-tips/com/2010/08/blogladesh.html

Every Mother can empathise with suffering children, but it takes a special kind of Mum to get off her backside, put her best humane foot forward and do soemthing active about it. And that special kind of Mummy deserves our whole-hearted support.

Monday, 23 August 2010

You know you're STILL English when...

  • you hide behind the sofa when you hear the 'Dr Who' theme tune;
  • you form an orderly queue, even if it's to ask what the queue is for;
  • you apologise to lampposts when you walk into them;
  • your guilty pleasure on a Sunday is 'The Archers Omnibus' on the BBC iPlayer;
  • your spend your ride home from work thinking about the cuppa you'll brew when you get in;
  • you know how to make a 'proper' cup of tea;
  • by early September, you're nostalgic for the sound of rain;
  • you finish a frappe (Greek iced coffee) is less time than it takes your Greek friends to smoke a cigarette;
  • your suitcase is packed and standing by the front door two weeks before you travel anywhere;
  • you miss picking blackberries from the hedgerows in September;
  • you crave custard;
  • you're hooked on sarcasm and irony, even though no-one 'gets it' here;
  • you refuse to believe that going barefoot will bring about the end of the world;
  • you have no "meso" (connections with folk to pull strings) and frankly don't care;
  • you have just one watch, but you're never late;
  • you lament the quality of Greek children's TV compared to 'Blue Peter' circa 1976;
  • you forget Name Days but remember everyone's birthdays (even when THEY forget);
  • you feel uncomfortable with patriotic displays of flag waving;
  • you can't take the Eurovision Song Contest seriously - Terry Wogan's commentary still haunts you;
  • you say "actually" far too much;
  • your ancestors were banging rocks together when Socrates was downing his cup of hemlock;
  • you do "British stroppy" oh-so-VERY-well;
  • no-one else in your family has the same name as you;
  • you enjoy 'cheap & cheerful';
  • you're not embarrassed to invite friends for a meal and not have the table collapse under the weight of the dishes;
  • you miss autumn mists;
  • you like Marmite!
I've been here for more than 20 years now. Since then, I've married (a Greek), had a child, worked with many Greeks, made many Greek friends, generally adapted to the way of life here and gotten a pretty good grasp of the lingo.

Some folk say I'm virtually Greek by now, but they're wrong.

For all the reasons listed above - and plenty more besides - there is a part of me that is Forever England, like it or not.

Friday, 20 August 2010

The Gallery - A Photo I'm Proud Of

I've started following the weekly Gallery, with themes and subjects set by the lovely Tara over at

Unfortunately, I didn't get my act together to include the proper logo the first week I participated, and last week when the subject was "A Memory", I was paralysed by indecision (So many memories! Which to choose?).
The theme this week (Week No.24) is "A Photo I'm Proud Of", so I proudly present you with this little gem of digital wizardry.

It's not fantastic technically. And, although it is of Kidling Grand (a.k.a. Number One - & Only - Son) of whom I am naturally ENORMOUSLY proud, that's not the reason I'm putting it up as "A Photo I'm Proud Of".
The reason is simply that it was one of my first amateurish attempts at digitally manipulating a photo I had taken - rather than just pointing, clicking and living with the results. I really like the poster-like effect I ended up with - nice strong colours, sharp contrast, that cartoonish monkey-like poise (oh, hang on a mo - that's natural)....

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Shouting, without saying a word

In terms of body language, I'm LOUD.

As well as a motor-mouth when the mood takes me, I also have an extremely vocal body. My stance shifts, arms windmill, eyebrows waggle, fingers flutter and eyes roll, depending on my mood and what I want to say.
I am the world's worst liar.

So, now you know why I never play poker. I'm skint enough as it is.

For years, I never gave a second thought to body language, though I instinctively knew how most folk were feeling from the way they held themselves. But, it wasn't really until Kidling Grand (No.1 - and only - Son) came along that I considered it. For, as he grew up, I started seeing my own moves and gestures in him.

At 13, he is (like me) long of limb, and enjoys the kind of elasticity that enables him to bite his toenails (I know - gross! Guilty as charged).

Unlike me, he is tanned and athletic and utterly at ease in a casual way with his body.

And yet, when I see him standing with both feet planted firmly on the ground, hips-width apart, and hands on hips like a double-handled jug as he gazes into the middle distance, I get an electric shock of self-recognition.

It's the most natural position for me (apart from lolling on the sofa or slumped over a keyboard). But it's only in the past decade of so that I have realised what message it sends to world...

...that I'm a bossy old moo.

Not for me the flirty sideways glance over the shoulder, or a demure Lady Di-style upwards glance. Oh no.

I'm more long-strided stomping, with the occasional humiliating fall from grace or face-on collision with a lamppost due to the fact that I'm looking up and around me rather than where I'm going.

What you see is what you get. Straight on, like it or lump it, I dare you to disagree with me - that's what my body language is screaming most of the time, even when my mouth is trying to convince you "I'm sorry", or "Yes, you're right", or "Whatever you say, Ma'am".

I'm physical, in a face-pulling, arm-waving, unashamed, totally unladylike way.

Maybe that's why a (good) friend told me the other day that "You don't count as a woman"?

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

I'm so tired, I haven't slept a wink...

I'm not my usual bright-eyed and bushy-tailed(?) self today.

Thanks to the the sultry Athens night (the temperature didn't dip below 30 deg. C) without air-conditioning, and a million and three paranoid thoughts buzzing round my head, I managed a grand total of 24 minutes sleep last night.

The remaining 5 hours and 13 minutes were spent:
  • fitfully reading a near-future sci-fi novel in which the main character is the Ground Zero case of an incurable rabies epidemic;
  • jumping up and checking every stray night sound, just to be sure a foam-flecked mad dog wasn't climbing in through the bathroom window or trying to force the front door;
  • ploughing through ALL the podcasts on my trust iPod (including an entire half-hour devoted to pork scratchings - and I don't even eat meat!);
  • flapping sheets around and trying out variations on the Roman toga theme, with the orange geometric pattern adding a contemporary edge;
  • throwing sweat-soaked pillows around the room, then reaching out to hug them (the Ovver Arf wasn't with me - and he doesn't like it when I try and throw him around the room at 4 in the morning);
  • trying NOT to think about worst-case scenarios for the next few months;
  • as a result, obsessively going through my "what're we gonna do?" mantra;
  • taking showers, only to find I'm dripping with sweat by the time I've dried off the suds;
  • scrutinising spots, pores, wrinkles and stray hairs, then lamenting the inexorable march of time across my face;
  • experimenting with sticky tape as a poor woman's alternative to Botox (don't bother, it won't stick to sweaty skin - maybe super glue will work?);
  • rehearsing imaginary conversations with people I'll never meet;
  • jumping up and down in front of the mirror and crying over the bits that are still wobbling 2 minutes after the rest of me has stopped;
  • zapping through multiple channels to find nothing but unwatchable drivel....

Blimey! No wonder I'm knackered.

I would have prayed - for a cool breeze, an answer to all our woes, a thin body and a far bank account (rather than the other way round) - but I doubt anyone's listening.

But right now, I'd be willing to settle for a good night's sleep tonight.