Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Il faut cultiver nôtre jardin

Here in this little Greek island people have always given each other food, often already cooked. The local family that has adopted me often send a family member round with a plate or tupperware of whatever the family is having today, especially if it’s some traditional dish — a favourite is Yiouverlakia —that they know I like. It is likely, in the present circumstances, that people will do this more and more. Thank God I live in a small community; things will not get as bad as they are in the cities. No-one will be allowed to go hungry here.

Yesterday my friend Tasos presented me with an enormous marrow; I shall stuff it with a mincemeat sauce, bake it, and take it round to the bookshop, where we gather of an evening, to share. I am tempted, for all that most of the others know only a little English, to take round also a recording of the Marrow Song. (You know: ‘Oh, what a beauty, I’ve never seen one as big as that before…’ Greeks love a double entendre.)

I don’t know much about vegetable growing but I know what I like: as far as I’m concerned a marrow is just an overgrown courgette, and unless you do things with it it’s pretty bland and boring. The same does not go for tiny courgettes, though of course the English will find a way to make any food bland and boring; they will chop up courgettes and cook them to death. The thing to do however is to top and tail them, cutting off as little as possible, and then steam them whole until they just begin to soften. Serve whole, warm rather than hot, with olive oil, salt, and pepper, eat separately rather than with other more strongly flavoured foods. This way you will appreciate their fine, delicate flavour.

Yes, I know I don’t usually write about these sorts of things, but the way Greece is going we are all going to have to think more about the next meal.
 Yes, all right; we all know you've got a big one.
Now there's a couple of tasty little ones.

Greece is the Word

Well all right then: I wanted to write about something else entirely for my first new blog entry after a silence forced on me by Google, but as an English writer who has spent more than half an already long life in Greece, I suppose I have to write about the ‘crisis’. (By definition, a crisis occupies a point in time. ‘Continuing’, ‘Long-term’, and (God help the English language) ‘Ongoing’ Crises are grammatical nonsense.)

First, a general political point: Tsipras has set up a referendum for next Sunday, at which Greek voters will be asked to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Or rather, ‘No’ or ‘Yes’; the ‘No’ box is the top one on the ballot paper. But ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to what? In fact, to acceptance or rejection of further austerity measures, but many Greeks think they are voting on whether or not to stay in the European Community, so there is a danger that these people – quite possibly the majority — will in all innocence vote ‘Yes’. That is to say, in favour of having their already almost unlivable conditions — derisory pensions, collapsing health service, unemployment, rising suicide rates, etc. etc. — made quite impossible.

It has been said by people whose paternalistic arrogance makes them think their audience is even more simple-minded than they are themselves that a ship’s captain doesn’t ask the passengers to vote on the ship’s course. No indeed: Tsipras is a Prime Minister, not a captain, and Greece is a democratic state, not a ship. Contrary to the boastful myth, Greece has very little experience of democracy, but to date Tsipras has shown himself the most democratic Prime Minister Greece has ever had. He was voted in on a promise to end austerity; he is being bullied by the IMF and the Central European Bank into breaking that promise. He, and the Greek people, are being punished for behaving democratically. Tsipras quite rightly feels morally obliged to ask the Greek people whether they want him to break his promise.

I like him, and I wish him good luck; he, and Greece, are going to need it.

I was going to continue to talk about this on a more personal level; tell you what my Greek friends and I have been talking and arguing — in terms surprisingly calm and good-humoured — on these subjects. But I must dash down to the harbour to see, now that the electricity has come on again so that it might be working, whether the island’s one cash machine still has any money in it. More later perhaps; what we were doing when the news came through, what we speculated might happen, what jokes we made about perhaps having to give up shopping and eat Panayiota’s goats and Veneta’s  chickens — later perhaps.

Oh, and even though the electricity is back here, there seems to be none at the server, wherever it is, so it might be some time before I can post this.