Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Night and day: Greece, August 2012

Like the beat, beat, beat of the tom tom
when the jungle shadows fall.
Like the tick,tick, tock of the stately clock
as it stands against the wall.
Like the drip, drip drip of the rain drops
when the summer showers through.
a voice within me keeps repeating...
 ...doom, doom, doom!

With apologies to Cole Porter, that’s pretty much how life in Greece feels lately. Like Chinese water torture or the slow but sure tightening of the screw stretching its victim on the rack, every night and day brings a small but inexorable increase in the pressure affecting most folk simply trying to get on with their lives with some semblance of normality.

We adjust, we trim, we sacrifice, we surrender another degree of sovereignty. We try to accept the inevitable stoically, to take yet another deep breath and tighten the belt yet another notch.

But after two solid years of constant squeezing, we wonder how much more uncertainty we can stand as incomes dwindle (or are slashed) across the board, with deepest cuts being made in the pockets of those with the smallest reserves.

Every news bulletin brings the latest ‘expert’ opinions about Greece’s impending doom, and we grit our teeth for yet another round of cuts, raised taxes and spiralling prices. All the while, we wonder if any of it will avert the disaster and final melt-down, the prospect of which has certain international pundits rubbing their hands with glee.

Meanwhile, the long hot Greek summer is gradually drawing to an end. The temperature is still in the 30s, occasionally spiking into the 40s, but those still in work are returning to duty and parents prepare for the back-to-school flurry of early September.

Few have had the luxury of a proper summer holiday, though those that could may have left the city to spend some weeks with family in the country. But now, as the last few days of August play out, it’s time to get back to business and face whatever the autumn will throw at us.

Above all, the Greeks are a resilient, stubborn lot. Whether that’s enough to get them through the next round of trials that await them remains to be seen.