Saturday, January 28, 2012


The photograph attached to this Diatribe, is by far the most striking and most evocative portrait I have ever seen. It is, put simply, a work of art. For in portraying what seemingly is a village woman in natural habitat, the photographer has in fact, captured the essence, nay personified the Greek region of Epirus.
Like almost all geographical regions, Epirus, is given the female gender by the Greek language, as is the subject in the photograph. Epirus forms a very ancient component of the Greek identity. It is the Ur-heimat from which, according to Greek mythology, the Greek tribes migrated into the rest of the country. As a result, it was known as Αρχέγονος Ελλάς, by the geographer Strabon and in the consciousness of the Greeks, always remained the wild, uncompromising, semi-barbarous but ultimately ever faithful ancestral repository of their identity.
The terrain of Epirus is overwhelmingly harsh and mountainous, stark and bleak. In fact, it is an area of extreme infertility, whose inhabitants have barely managed over the centuries, to coax enough plants out of the barren soil in order to subsist. As a result, they have grown hardy and stubborn, resourceful and indomitable, wilful yet patient, strong yet ever vulnerable to the vicissitudes of nature that seem to blight their lives with depressing constancy.
As a result, few of the folk songs of Epirus ever raise themselves above a basic level of despondency. The Epirots are perhaps the only people in the world who begin their celebrations with funeral dirges, lamenting lost loved ones, lost opportunities, lost dreams and even lost homelands. For the harsh and brutish conditions prevailing in Epirus have from the time of the genesis of the Greek people, have caused them to abandon that region since time immemorial, in search of a better life. Nonetheless, the Epirot male always remained tied to his ancestral homeland, returning to procreate, then to relocate male sons to the family business and finally, after a life of roaming in ξενιτιά φαρμακωμένη, returning to die. Epirot women on the other hand, were left at home to battle the elements, along with often precarious political and social circumstances, relying on their own ingenuity, and overseas handouts from their menfolk in order to survive. Epirots are thus stone-reared, and can survive anything.
One can see all this, and much more in the photograph. Against a whitewashed, stark stone background, constructed of the same stones as the brooding mountains of Epirus, stands an Epirot woman. Next to her, there is a hint of a window, yet it looks out onto nothing and its bars provide neither hope of insight or escape. Her stooped and wearied stance denotes that of an old woman. If this is the case then the baby crib or "sarmanitsa," as it is known in the Epirotic patois, with all its connotations of fertility, comes in stark juxtaposition to its bearer, who manifestly is beyond child-bearing age. It is then, a pictorial poem of aridity, the negation of creativity. Most masterfully, the photographer does not actually reveal to us the actual age of the woman in question. On closer inspection, it is plausible that she is not old, just wretched and weighed down by the almost unbearable burdens of her existence as a female in Epirus, where again the sarmanitsa constitutes a powerful symbol, not only of her social position but also of hope for the future.
As if to show the inevitable peripatetic nature of the Epirotic condition, the woman is photographed just as she appears to go on a journey. Her satchel strapped across her, she pauses and places her head in her hands. Is she abandoning her home owing to the death of a family member or the destruction of her home? After all this photo was taken in 1913, in the aftermath of the Balkan Wars that both liberated and devastated Epirus. Or is she being compelled to abandon her home due to the overriding poverty of her day to day existence? We cannot tell. All we know is that in capturing her, in a very human moment, the necessity of fleeing is paused to give way to despondency, the photographer achieves a most remarkable feat. In obscuring her face, he removes from his subject her personal identity. She could be anyone. She is in fact, the everywoman of her time, giving way to her emotions but stoically enduring, persisting and moving on, in mute suffering, as generations of her ancestors have done before her. When I look at her, it is as if I can see my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mother and hear the sighs of every single other Epirot woman I have ever known. I have seen no other depiction that so evokes a place or a people, so effectively.

The photographer possessed with such gifts of perception, was the Swiss born Fred Boissonnas, a descendant of an eminent dynasty of photographers, who from 1903 when he first came to Greece, up until the year of his death in 1946, became enraptured by the country and its heritage and determined to provide a extensive photographic record of the aspects of Greek life that most enthralled him. Thus, for more than thirty years, Boissonnas proved to be an unlikely but passionate ambassador of Greece, not only in the guise of a photographer but also as a writer, illustrator and publisher of books with themes taken from Greece.
With his rare sensibility and his unique photographic techniques, he revealed and promoted to Europe and the rest of the world, Greece's bright landscapes, the glorious ancient monuments and the vivid everyday life during the first decades of the twentieth century. Fascinatingly enough, it is an often neglected fact that the peripatetic Fred Boissonnas, along with native Greeks Christos Kakalos and Daniel Baud-Bovy were the first persons to ascend the highest peak of Mount Olympus, a feat that took place as late as in 1914.
His fascination for the ever changing landscapes and diversity of lifestyles steeped in a rich tradition and stoic autarky compelled Fred Boissonnas to extensively explore Greece from the Peloponnese to Crete, Ithaca to Epirus and Olympus to the Holy Mountain. Through photos and albums he presents a panorama of Greece during the interwar period, helping to shape a sympathetic European public opinion of the poor and harried country during the same period. Some of the photographs are remarkable in that they capture demographic realities that no longer exist. Boissonas' photographs of Paramythia constitute key sociological evidence of the Albanian Cham minority in western Epirus, prior to their alliance with the occupying powers and the massacres they perpetrated, which compelled them to leave the region. Similarly, Boissonas' photographs of Athens, displaying a bucolic landscape of empty, open fields, dominated by a brooding Parthenon, truly are works of art, as is his photo of rain pooling into puddles on the Parthenon floor. And then of course there is the personification of Epirus....
Quote apart from his interest in recording edifices that would eventually disappear, Boissonas gave us a picture of Greece that extends beyond the portrayal of the tangible, in order to capture an ethos and a singular attitude to life. One can only wonder, whether a modern day photographer, travelling through just a diverse land, so many years of tribulation later, would be as sufficiently moved as Fred Boissonas to exclaim affectionately about his subjects:
"These people, both on the coast and further inland, the fisherman, the farmer, the shepherd, all these people have such a brilliant mind, so much kindness, so much passion for freedom. Such a cult of the past, such a dedication to ancient habits ... " I for one, would like to think that they would. For Boissonas' photographs are evidence enough, that some things never change.


First published in NKEE on Saturday 28 January 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012


If there are flagships to our fleet of Greek language educational institutions in Victoria, then certainly these are our three «δίγλωσσα ημερίσια κολλέγια» or bi-lingual day schools, whose stated aim upon their foundation was to provide the Greek community with a comprehensive facility that would fulfil the dual aim of readying its offspring for the demands and requirements of broader Australian society, while simultaneously, providing them with a grounding in the Greek language and culture sufficient to enable them to transcend both cultural spheres with ease. Two of these schools, namely St John's and Saint's Anargyroi, being schools associated in various ways with the Orthodox Church, added to this mission, a further aim: to instil in their students the faith, values and tradition of that Church.
It is worthwhile to refer to these aims when considering the recent controversy surrounding the renaming of Oakleigh Greek Orthodox College Saints Anargyroi in Oakleigh. According to one of two warring factions within the school community, a proposal to rename the school "Saints Anargyroi Grammar," was put to members of the Oakleigh Greek Orthodox Community at a General meeting of that organisation and approved. Subsequent to this, the school committee allegedly announced, without prior consultation with members, that the school would be renamed "Oakleigh Grammar." The aggrieved faction argues firstly that such a change is unconstitutional, since it was not approved first by members at a properly convened General meeting, wondering as an aside, why a General Meeting was convened to obtain member's approval to change the name of the school to Saints Anargyroi Grammar, when all along the intention was to name the school Oakleigh Grammar. Secondly, the argument is put that the removal of the saint's names from the school conflicts with the vision of the driving force behind the foundation of the school, the late but unforgettable Father Nikolaos Moutafis, who conceived of the school as an orthodox educational institution, under the protection and blessing of the unmercenary Saints Cosmas and Damianos.
Conversely, the Oakleigh Community Board defends its conduct by stating that nowhere in the Community's constitution is there a requirement for the approval of the members to be gained for a change of the school 's name and that they only held the previous general meeting "out of respect" for their members. Further, they hasten to point out, a name change to something neutral (and presumable less "ethnic") is necessary, as the school is losing money and students and an appeal to a broader market is intrinsic to the school's survival.
While the board has still failed to clearly explain the logic behind going through the tedious process of calling a General Meeting to put to the vote a change of name that will not be used, out of respect for members, when they don't have to, only to arbitrarily institute a change of a different name without regard for their own self-imposed voluntary processes, clearly there is a more important issue at stake. Put simply, regardless of which faction is legally vindicated, either our community has failed the vision of the School's founding fathers, or, that vision is no longer relevant to our community, which, in actual fact, may amount to the same thing.
It is trite that owing to the realities of the Victorian experience, and despite early visions of true bi-lingual education, it did not prove possible to create an educational environment where lessons could be taught equally in both languages. In fact, our day-schools are as multi-lingual as any other school that teaches languages other than English as an elective. Further at the same time that we may boast to those outside our community of the existence of Saints Anargyroi, and other like schools, the sizeable Greek community on the whole, based both on enrolments and anecdotal evidence, is hesitant to entrust the education of its offspring to the school.
While one of these certainly is the fact that the school does not have the aura of prestige and reputation of academic excellence of other private schools, on the whole, its students do not perform badly, and it constitutes and important hub of the local Greek community. Therein lies the problem. Not a few are the parents who, considering whether to send their children to the school, have uttered sentiments such as: "I want my children to have the best start in life. I don't want them growing up in a ghetto," or, "have you seen how those Oakleigh kids speak? Which employer is going to employ my kids if they learn to speak like that?" or even more disturbingly: "Yeah, as if I would trust a bunch of Greeks to run a decent school." A friend who is moving to Victoria from Greece for a short period of time and made enquiries about the school for his children confided: "At first I thought it would be a good idea, as I wanted my children to learn English, and also not lose their standard of Greek when we move back to Greece. However, when I saw exactly how Greek is taught and the class of people my children would have to mix with, I thought the better of sending my children there."
Of these comments, it is noticeable that only one expressed some concern as to the standard of Greek language teaching, and this, only from a parent intending to re-settle in Greece. A deeper prejudice underlies the other observations, made by Greek-Australian parents, who are apparently not unduly concerned about the school's Modern Greek curriculum, or in fact, if one is to dare to make such a conclusion from an absence of comments indicating otherwise, are largely unconcerned with their children's school instilling within them "Orthodox values." Instead, these parents are primarily concerned with ensuring that their children are best equipped in order to achieve professional success within the large melting pot of Victorian society. Thus, they have paradoxically adopted a prejudice that was originally and historically applied to them and their parents by the dominant culture: that anything that is 'Greek,' is by nature inferior and not to be trusted or supported by anyone with aspirations towards mainstream success. That is, as one parent pointed out to me, "the school is fine if you want your kid to become a builder and marry a hairdresser that will drive around Oakleigh in a four wheel drive chewing gum, but not so fine if you want you want kid to become a lawyer or an accountant, respected by other Australians and treated as an equal." What this horrifying statement says about class relations among second generation Greek-Australians and their perception of their own identity warrants a diatribe in its own right.
It cannot be doubted that the teachers and management of Saints Anargyroi are committed to the quality education of their students. So are the parents who send their children there to be educated. Yet schools can only do so much if they are not whole-heartedly supported and their vision shared by their own communities. It cannot be doubted that the original vision, which is one where Greek-Australian students would retain their identity by being educated together bilingually (as opposed to merely learning the Greek language), while simultaneously becoming good Orthodox Christians, is one that most people no longer subscribe to as tenable. Right or wrong, the decision to divest the school of its 'ethnically' sounding name, in order to attract students from the broader community reflects the death of this vision in the face of reality. Just how "Greek," and how "Orthodox" the school will become in the face of such an abandonment of its founding principles by the community it was built to serve will be proved by the passage of time.
Whether one adheres to the quixotic vision of a Greek-Australian community transcending the generations unsullied by assimilation or rather, laughs this off as an accumulated cultural baggage, the weight of which should not encumber or hinder one's progress within Australian society, it is time that our community determined, in an honest and realistic fashion, without hyperbole or fancy, just what it is that it wishes to achieve for itself in the future and what being Greek should mean. Viewed in this context, the change of the school name in order to position that institution for the future should be accompanied by an explanation of what the future is envisaged to be, and then a consensus reached as to whether that is, the way to go.


First published in NKEE on Saturday, 21 January 2012

Saturday, January 14, 2012


And the philhellene award of the year goes not to the homonymous restaurant in Moonee Ponds, but rather, to the inhabitants of the French city of Nantes who have attempted to redeem the historically tarnished name of their town in a most novel way. For it was Nantes, lotted and pillaged by the Saxons and laid waste by the Normans, that was the capital of the slave trade in France prior to its abolition and it was there that the French revolutionaries punished the rebelling monarchists by executing thousands of them via the novel ‘republican marriage,’ whereby a man and a woman where stripped naked, tied together, and drowned in the Loire. This notwithstanding, the Nantais have generously conjured up a novel way in which to manifest their solidarity with the beleaguered Greek people.
The “Je suis Grec,” or ‘I am Greek’ movement, encourages the Nantais and all other Europeans to express their support for the Greeks during the economic crisis, by submitting applications for Greek citizenship to local consulates and embassies of Greece across Europe. To actively seek to be a Greek at a time when Greece, its people and practices are almost universally reviled by the Western world is breathtakingly touching, verging as it does, upon the incredulous.
The movement’s manifesto however, does more than express support for the Greek people. Instead, it delves deeper in order to identify the global market and financial practices that caused Greece’s quandary, in order to soundly condemn them: “We are outraged by the indignity the Greek people have been subjected to. We are angered by the cowardice and lack of vision of Western governments against the dictatorship of money and infuriated by the indignity to which to the Greek people is currently subject, shamelessly accused of profligacy and fraud, collectively condemned as guilty without a right of self-defence, doomed to an endless austerity and penance in terms reminiscent of Marshal Petain’s seizure of power in 1940 in order to safeguard the ‘moral order.’ Do not forget that those who now sacrifice Greece for the sake of speculation, hope in vain that economic fascism will be satisfied with this small country and that they will escape.”
The gallant French activists of Nantes, in stark opposition to the vast majority of Anglo-Saxon media, view Greece as a victim rather than a perpetrator, a victim of a global system that has seduced it with the siren-song of affluence and an augmented standard of living, all the while enmeshing it within the thraldom of debt and dominance by the West. It is with such an analysis of the current situation in mind that the request for Greek citizenship is worded: “Your Excellency, in solidarity with your country, I, the undersigned………….. request personally to be counted at heart a Greek, to enjoy the rights and duties of dual nationality, and to express this international citizenship with a view to the establishment of universal democracy in liberty and equality, twenty-five centuries after the time of Solon, Cleisthenes, and Pericles.”
It beggars belief that in the face of such impassioned mention of some of the greatest luminaries of the ancient Greek political and legal world that the unimaginative Greek ambassador in Paris has responded to some of these heart-warming requests by bureaucratically pointing out the residence requirement along with other reasons as to why the Nantais’ application for Greek citizenship must be rejected. This, in the diatribist’s view, is most shameful and downright ridiculous. After all, considering that Nantes has been rated by Time among others as ‘Europe’s most liveable city,’ and as an ‘Innovation Hub,’ surely it is invariably more expedient to grant these aspiring Gallic Greeks citizenship. Having thus been Hellenized, they can be the first Greek citizens to be subjected to the full rigours of intense taxation. That will teach them to pay homage to the ancient, rather than the modern Greek political luminaries. Viewed from this prism, the Greco-Nantais hold the keys to Greece’s economic recovery. Given that Nice was a Greek colony and that Nantes also starts with the same letter, perhaps Greece can seek the cession of Nantes as fair and equitable compensation as well.
Brittannic idealistic Greco-worship comes in marked contrast to the behaviour of their Britannic cousins across the channel, who, if the Channel 4 program “Go Greek for a Week,” is anything to go by, look towards inherent elements of the Greek identity to prove that it is the very nature of the Greek that is responsible for the country’s current economic and social woes. According to this way of thinking, just like the noble savage of the eighteenth century, so too can the Greeks not be blamed for their plight. They can’t help being who they are.
The Channel 4’s description of the series is most revealing: Three British families try out the tax, pensions and work practices that caused Greece’s economic crisis and brought on the austerity measures aimed at cutting the deficit and qualifying for EU bailouts. A 54-year-old British hairdresser discovers the generosity of the Greek pensions system, which still allows hairdressers, pastry chefs, radio continuity announcers and people in almost 600 other jobs to retire aged 53 at 90% of their final salary because their jobs are defined as hazardous. A bus driver reaps the rewards of the Greek approach to state-run services, where bus drivers could be paid up to almost double the national average salary and receive extra bonuses for arriving at work early and for checking bus tickets and a British surgeon is delighted to discover how paying income tax the Greek way will transform his disposable income. The personal experiences of the three main characters are supposedly supported by expert interviews that establish the patterns of tax evasion, corruption and mismanagement that are alleged to have helped to sink the Greek economy. Of course
As one British commentator sagely pointed out the description omits mention of whether the participants will have a moustache, wear a traditional skirt or an ancient toga and dance Syrtaki all day long. Further, it has not been made clear whether the winner will be awarded a bottle of Ouzo, or a kilo of olives and/or a frenzied OPA!
No amount of Pericles, Themistocles, Agathocles or Hierocles or their combined achievements, so appreciated by the Nantais of Brittany can serve to allay an apparently inherent Britannic prejudice based on a violent imperialist past and intermittent bouts of social inequality and repression, whereby southern Mediterranean peoples are, by virtue of their current economic and political strength, inferior and thus, legitimate figures of fun. For this reason, a “Go British for a Week,” where gangs of dispossessed youths would be allowed to rampage through the city streets wreaking havoc, policemen would be allowed to shoot suspicious looking foreigners on the grounds that they may be terrorists, soldiers could invade, bomb and/or conquer other countries and appropriate their resources, and tourists would be permitted to travel to southern European countries where they can indulge in binge drinking and public acts of fornication would still not suffice for the purpose of showing how self-righteous, sensationalist and insulting racial stereotyping and schadenfreude is simply not cricket.
If anything, the narrowness of the “Go Greek for a Week,” vision is to be pitied as much as the Nantais’ broad understanding of the wider causes of the Greek tragedy is to be admired for it is self-assured complacency that inhibits assessment and introspection, which finally leads to social decline. What the world, the detractors and the Greeks themselves must learn from their current condition is that the Greek people have been around for an exceedingly long time. During that time, they have reached the pinnacle of brilliance as well as the abyss of degradation. Yet it is this innate ability to shine, albeit intermittently and to carry on despite all adversity that perennially is their greatest triumph.


First published in NKEE on Saturday, 14 January 2011

Saturday, January 07, 2012


"Who is that man over there? He looks familiar," I asked my aunt, at a recent gathering during the festive season. "That one there? That is Shtuka," my aunt replied nonchalantly. "Shtuka?" What kind of name is that?" I asked incredulously. "Surely that can't be Greek." "Oh, that's not his real name," my aunt explained unruffled. "That is his nickname. As a young boy during the War, whenever the German Stuka planes would fly over the village, he would point to them and shout "Shtuka, shtuka, shtuka! So the name stuck." One of my greatest regrets is having gone through three decades of sojourn upon the mortal earth without having acquired any respectable sobriquet whatsoever. The acquisition of a «παρατσούκλι,» is inevitable if one lives in a village, under the close scrutiny of one's peers who are eager to seize upon any idiosyncrasy or eccentricity in order to differentiate people from each other. The city on the other hand, situated thousands of miles away from the ancestral coining trough, confers partial protection against the propagation of such titles.
The παρατσούκλι, a usually familiar or humorous but sometimes pointed or cruel name given to a person or place, as a supposedly appropriate replacement for or addition to one's proper name is ubiquitous in Greek culture and has its roots in hallowed antiquity, where a somewhat unhealthy interest in the subject target's ophthalmic health was displayed. Thus, in times Hellenistic, we come across Antigonos I Monophthalmus (the One-eyed), who was the most eminent successor of Alexander the Great and sovereign of Eastern Mediterranean Asia. He obtained his nickname at an early age when he lost one eye fighting at the seige of Perinthos, as a general of King Philip. His contemporary, on the other hand, Ptolemy, king of Egypt, bore the sobriquet "Lagos" (the rabbit). Several Byzantine emperors also have a number of similar nicknames, such as Anastasius I Dicoros (each of his eyes was a different colour), Alexius V Ducas Murtzuphlus (he with the scowling eyebrows), and Andronicus I Comnenus Misophaes (the aptly named hater of sunlight, since he blinded a great number of his opponents). To these must be added the Byzantine Empress Zoe Carvounopsina (she with coal-black eyes). Some of the Byzatine nicknames did not leave much to the imagination. Basil II was referred to as "o Voulgaroktonos," (the Bulgar-slayer), owing to his propensity to murder the inhabitants of the northern borderlands, whereas Constatine VII, was referred to as "Porphyrogenitus" (born in the purple), as he was born in the purple birthing chamber where legitimate children of the reigning emperors were born. Casting aside toponymic nicknames denoting various emperor's ethnic origins such as Leo the Armenian and Leo the Khazar, one comes across absolute gems of nicknames such as that of the depraved emperor Justinian II Rhinotmetus (the slit-nosed, as his nose was cut off when he was dethroned), ruthless general Michael Lachanodrakon, (cabbage-dragon), writer John Mavropous (black-foot), the gorgeous diplomat Leo Choirosphaktes (slaughterer of the pigs) and his well-endowed brother in law and governor of Dyrrachium, Leo Rhabdouchos (possessor of the rod). To my mind however, the greatest of all the Byzantine nicknames are two. In second place comes that which is applied to the great theologian and saint of the Orthodox Church, Saint John as Chrysostomos - "he of the golden mouth", a fitting testament to his immense oratorical skill. Pausing for a moment to allow for the drum-roll, the undoubtedly greatest Byzantine nickname would have to be that given to the hapless emperor Constantine V as Copronyus - literally "the shit-named," as he reputedly defecated in his baptismal font. No other nickname I have heard matches this one, in savage intensity.
The interesting thing about Greek nicknames is that they are intended for use only behind the so-named victim's back. To refer to him by his sobriquet to his face is an insult. Unfortunately, it often is the case that the nickname is used with so much frequency that to the uninitiated, it appears as the victim's actual name. Just before my wedding, to illustrate the point, I sent an invitation to my cousin, in which I addressed her by her husband's surname Kakaras. Some weeks later, my cousin called to confirm her attendance. Just before she hung up the phone, she coughed nervously and said: "Just so you know, our surname isn't Kakaras. It's a nickname." My mortally embarrassed father then revealed my cousin's proper married name, one I had never heard, explaining that the sobriquet was earned by my cousin's father in law as a young boy, in a manner similar to emperor Constantine Copronymus.
That is not the only time I have put my foot in it. For reasons best known only to the inhabitants of my mother's village, one kindly uncle is referred to by the sobriquet "o Patsas." Answering the telephone as a young boy, I passed it on to my mother, telling her that "theio Patsa" wanted to speak to her. Having heard this through his receiver, he was decidedly unimpressed which caused my mother infinite embarrassment. It was from that moment on that I decided to make a list of the most interesting and often bizarre nicknames of the village, in order to safeguard myself from embarrassment and cause the least amount of offence possible.
The erstwhile president of the village, the august Mr Avgerinos, is referred to by all and sundry as Katsiapringas. I have absolutely no idea what this strange sounding word means, but would sacrifice all possibilities to earn a bizarre nickname in my own right to find out. Other village nicknames are quite innocent and refer to things that their subjects enjoy. For example, 'o Bouzoukas,' was named thus because he likes bouzouki music, and 'o Dirlandas,' because he enjoys that particular song. 'O Tsimouris,' however, was thusly named, as this means horsefly, and when he was young, his father scolded him for getting in his way, saying: "Stop hanging around me like a horse-fly." Some nicknames, which appear questionable to say the least in provenance, have entirely innocent explanations. "O Koitaxtis" earned his nickname, not, as one might think, because of a propensity to perve on people during their most private moments, but rather, because when a photo was being taken in the village, he would draw people's gaze to the camera by shouting: "Koitaxte, koitaxte!"
Proof that rather than re-hashing and perpetuating tired and threadbare nicknames that refer to a lifestyle in a village long gone, we are capable of coining our own here in the Antipodes, is one of the more recent nicknames given to an acquaintance, in order to adequately describe his propensity to grow lustrous and luxurious facial hair: Ayatollah. 'O Ayatollas,' introduced by an adult friend ignorant of his real name to others as 'o kyrios Ayatollas,' continues to be so named, despite having divested himself of his facial hair well over a decade ago.
William Hazlitt may have posited that "a nickname is the hardest stone the devil can throw at a man," yet their existence says more for the ingenuity, irreverence and ultimately, affection of those who create them than for the foibles of those upon whom they are foisted. Long may they reign and should any of you gentle readers, become sufficiently inspired as to coin a nickname for the diatribist, do not be afraid to share. For the compliment, most painstakingly crafted, shall be returned. Happy New Year!


First published in NKEE on Saturday 7 January 2012