Three years ago today we checked out of a fabulous hotel at Frankfurt airport flew to Athens and when we landed there were so many text messages and voicemails on our phones we thought that a member of the royal family must surely be pregnant. Evidently Athens was burning and the streets were filled with looters and rioters and people were checking on our safety. At this point we were safely* in a taxi going toward a hotel in the northern suburbs and everything looked pretty much as normal as normal will ever be in this country. It’s like asking someone in St Albans if they’re troubled by the St Paul’s Occupy Protest when people wonder if we’re safe when the news reports that molotov cocktails are once again being thrown around Syntagma Square. Some metro stations remain closed today because there is expectation that people will gather to protest against the killing of Alexis on December 6th 2008.
There have been only two occasions when I’ve been slightly concerned for my safety: the first was during the first year we were here when the trouble spilt over from the square, a bank was firebombed and three employees died. A friend whose husband worked in one of the Embassies had a call from him warning us all to stay indoors. The second time was when I had taken a friend downtown to see the changing of the guard when suddenly we heard drumming and chanting. All the kiosk, cafe and shop owners on Syntagma leapt out of their buildings and pulled down the shutters and as if from nowhere there were about 200 riot policemen wearing gasmasks. I pointed to the steps of the metro and told my friend to run straight for there and at this point half-a-dozen tourists on on a Segway tour tootled past clearly wondering where the reverse gear was. That’s the one photograph I really regret not getting.
*’safely’ in a Greek taxi is a relative concept. Last time I took a cab from the airport the driver had decided that he had had enough of paying the tolls on the motorway so he tailgated the car in front but he misjudged it and the barrier came down on the roof of the car. After I expressed concern at this he decided to drive at a speed way beyond the speed limit but still not at a speed that would justify the speed of the meter turning. When I questioned the rate on the meter he didn’t reduce speed while he turned round to argue the toss with me. Even Mr T looked pale during this taxi ride.
Just consider the lack of a post yesterday to be the equivalent of one of those cheap advent calendars where the factory hasn’t got the perforation correct and the door won’t open. It would only have been a bit of holly behind that door anyway.