After Easter there seemed to be a lull in the strikes and I hoped that this meant that everyone had had their protest and that it would all move into people playing nicely; probably not as much as my friend George hoped, but there you go, this is still all about me. Earlier this week it seemed that the economy was going to crumble around us and the banks would close their bullet-proofed doors leaving us with a handful of Euros and dust. Now George is left holding the junk bonds to go with the junk that is left around the streets to be picked over by those who have the eye to see that there may be some value in the stuff that no one else wants. Here in the northern suburbs life goes on pretty much as usual and the annual flower show in Kifissia is packed out with people taking in the scent of gardenias and lemon trees whilst downtown it’s the stench of tear gas and petrol bombs.
The strikes are only affecting us because we are now starting to have guests and making arrangements for them to travel around the country is slightly difficult. Strikes are announced in advance but it’s not always clear who is going on strike on any given day and what it all means. If the transport workers are on strike does this mean that the ferries are sailing? Possibly, but not necessarily. If our train line is running does that mean that I can connect with the suburban railway or line 3 to Agia Paraskevi? Possibly, but not necessarily. If I get stranded down town then will I get a taxi to take me up to the northern suburbs, which is the Athenian equivalent of not going south of the river. Possibly, but not necessarily.
But the weather, for us, is perfect with temperatures of around 24 degrees and constant blue skies. If we can’t get to the island then we can drive across the mountains to Nea Makri or drive up the Attiki Odos to Evvia and we’ll find the ouzeries open for business. If we hit the right restaurant we’ll get a half-litre of very drinkable wine for four Euros. If we hit the wrong restaurant then we’ll get a half-litre of sourness but it still only costs four Euros so who cares?
Coming from the UK, where it’s imprinted into one’s DNA to love either cats or dogs, it can be difficult to ignore the stray cat and dog problem here in Greece and many expats involve themselves in various animal welfare charities. On many occasions when I meet someone for the first time they’ll ask me how long I’ve been here and because I’m relatively fresh they’ll then ask me if if I’d like to adopt a dog or a cat. I just say no and don’t even discuss it because these women know how to block every excuse. Because I’ve signed up to various groups I’m always getting emails with pictures of cute kittens and puppies wanting a home, but I’m tough and I delete them.
Yesterday I went walking in the grounds of Tatoiu Palace, where King Constantine used to hang out in the summer. The palace is crumbling away and the extensive grounds are now a national park with many trails for walking and cycling. As I got out of the car a stray dog came over to me and did that cute dog thing of lying on his back and wriggling around to have his tummy tickled. He was a cross between a labrador and several other mutts and was very friendly so I don’t think he’d been badly treated. As we set off on our walk he followed to heel and stayed with me, occasionally pushing his head against my leg to remind me that he was there. For close on two hours I wondered just how much it would cost to have his vaccinations done and have him microchipped so that he could travel with us. I’d look down at him and his trusting face would look up at me and I could imagine him thinking that he’d scored big time and this was the nice lady who was going to take him home to a lifetime of Pedigree Chum and a cozy corner on the sofa. I reckoned that it probably wouldn’t cost that much and that we’d be able to put him in kennels if we were travelling somewhere where it wouldn’t be reasonable to take him. There was a whole network of dog lovers out there who’d be only too happy to help me out. He was nudging his head into my leg again. There was no way that if I actually took him home that Mr T would throw him out. How could you throw out a big, happy, grinny dog who walks to heel?
Then we were about 500 yards from the car and we met a couple coming in the opposite direction who had some small, yappy mutt with them and my faithful companion went over to say hello and as they carried on walking in the other direction he trotted off with them, butting his head gently on the lady’s leg with not a backward glance at the fool who had been about to take him back to a life of luxury in the northern suburbs.
So, I say to the dogs of Greece. You had your chance and you blew it. And that just about covers it, I think.