Saturday, February 28, 2015


During the month of February, when Epirotes around the world commemorate the declaration of the autonomy of Northern Epirus, now  part of the Republic of Albania, my thoughts often turn to one  of them most remarkable of the Greek people, one time Greek foreign-minister, businessman and president of the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus,  Georgios Christakis-Zografos. His portrait, as it appears in the Gallery of the National Bank of Greece, is of a middle aged bearded man, sitting with his hands clasped together. Yet his is not the self-satisfied countenance of a smug, venal Greek politician of his times. His eyes are searching, his posture uneasy, as if he is gravely worried and longing to spring out of the canvas and into action. One of the most luminous of expatriate Greeks, he made lasting contributions to his country of origin but also, in many aspects of his life, mirrored the outlook, triumphs and failures of one of his great heroes, the first prime minister of Greece, Ioannis Kapodistrias.
 Born in Paris, Zografos was born into privilege as the son of the entrepreneur, benefactor, founder of Greek schools and charitable institutions both in Greece and Constantinople, Christakis Zografos, who hailed from the village of Kestorati, in Northern Epirus. Owing to his background, Zografos was able to study law and political science in leading tertiary institutions of Paris and Munich and immerse himself in the latest intellectual currents regarding governance. When he returned in Greece, he applied himself to advocating much needed land reform within Greece, starting with his father’s own expansive agricultural holdings on the fertile plain of Thessaly. During this period he was, in contrast with others of his class, an outspoken proponent of the concept that the large feudal estates known as tsiflikia, which  included most of the arable land in Thessaly and which were in the hands of a few wealthy notables who exercised an unhealthy influence in the manner in which the region was governed, should be expropriated and redistributed to those who owned no land. Putting his ideology into practice, he sold his family’s holdings to landless peasants for extremely low prices. Unsurprisingly, this earned him the enmity of the traditional landholding classes of Thessaly.
Conversely, his advocacy of the rights of the dispossessed earned him unprecedented popularity among the broader population of Thessaly and owing to this groundswell of support, he ran for office and was elected to Parliament in 1905, representing prefecture of Karditsa. In 1909, he served as Foreign Minister under the Dimitrios Rallis administration. It is here that similarities with Kapodistrias begin. As foreign minister of Russia, Kapodistrias dreamed and schemed for the liberation of his homeland, Greece. Similarly, as foreign minister of Greece, Zografos maintained a foreign policy whose purpose was to re-claim all those lands in which Greeks were living and which at the time belonged to the Ottoman Empire and to unite those with Greece. He especially emphasized the need for the liberation of his particular homeland, Epirus. It is probably for this reason, that after the First Balkan War, he was appointed Governor-General of the part of Epirus that had been newly liberated by the Greek Army and which corresponds to the geographical region of Epirus as it is defined within the Greek state today. Zografos served as Governor-General of Epirus from March 1913 until December of the same year.
At the same time, Greeks and Albanians were advocating the inclusion of the northern parts of Epirus within Greece or the newly constituted state of Albania. Demographically, the adherents to both ethnic identities were almost equal in number. When the Great Powers finally decided to award Northern Epirus to Albania, and asked the Greek army to evacuate the area, the Greek Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos agreed, hoping that the Great Powers would by exchange recognize Greek sovereignty over the islands of the North Eastern Aegean.
The Northern Epirotes were incensed at this turn of events. No provision had been made for the recognition of their distinct ethnic identity under an Albanian administration. Zografos resigned his office in disgust and travelled to Northern Epirus where, on 28 February 1914, he declared the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus in Argyrokastron and the formation of a provisional government, with Zografos as president, formed to support the state's objectives. In his speech on 2 March, Zografos stated that the aspirations of the Northern Epirotes had been totally ignored, not only by the Great Powers, but also Greece:
“ Because of this inalienable right of each people, the Great Powers' desire to create for Albania a valid and respected title of dominion over our land and to subjugate us is void before the fundamentals of divine and human justice. Neither does Greece have the right to continue in occupation of our territory merely to betray it against our will to a foreign tyrant. Free of all ties, unable to live united under these conditions with Albania, Northern Epirus proclaims its independence and calls upon its citizens to undergo every sacrifice to defend the integrity of the territory and its liberties from any attack whatsoever. ” 
The Zografos administration was able to see off attacks by armed Albanian nationalists and to occupy the entire area his government claimed. Further, seeing through his diplomatic experience that a union of the region with Greece would not be countenanced by the Great Powers, through effective political maneuvers, he ensured Northern Epirus gained an internationally recognized autonomous status within Albania. This was effected via the Corfu protocol, where the two provinces of Korytsa and Argyrokastron would be completely autonomous, under the nominal Albanian sovereignty of its monarch. Greek would be the official language of state and schools and there would be proportional recruitment of natives into the local gendarmerie and the prohibition of military levies from people not indigenous to the region.
Had the Corfu protocol been given time to work, perhaps it could have been a model of inter-ethnic co-operation, providing a blueprint for the peaceful co-existence of nationalities in the Balkans. However it was not to be. World War I intervened and as various armies occupied the region, the Autonomous government was compelled to dissolve.
Zografos returned to Greece and became an executive of the National Bank of Greece, a position he retained until September 1917, with a shot hiatus between  25 February  to 10 August 1915, when he became Minister of Foreign Affairs under the cabinet of Dimitrios Gounaris. Zografos supported Greece’s entry into World War I on the side of the Triple Entente, believing that this would bring about various advantages to Greece and his homeland of Northern Epirus as well. Retiring in 1917, he died in 1920, knowing that his beloved homeland had, despite Greece’s efforts, been awarded once more to Albania, under a monarchy that used as many means at its disposal to erode the Greek character of the region.
As a statesman, visionary and reformer, Zografos’ memory lives on in the hearts of all of those Epirotes who remember and appreciate his vision for his country. While largely unknown outside of Epirus, during the Communist regime in Albania, Zografos and his father were stigmatised as 'enemies of the state'.  Anyone from his ancestral village who held the name 'Zografos' was deliberately persecuted. While the Zografeio school in Kestorati, founded by his father, has survived and operates as a museum today, Zografos is reviled by Albanian nationalists, who see him as a historical threat to the integrity of the Albanian state. To Epirotes however, he is romantic and enigmatic figure, wiling to sacrifice his wealth, career and his life in order to secure the safety and well-being of a people he did not grow up with but whom, he always considered his own.

First published in NKEE on Saturday 28 February 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015


It was a few years ago now that I was engaged in marching towards the Shrine of Remembrance, clad in full revolutionary regalia. Two elderly women, who were marching directly in front of me, were busy chatting to each other in an idiom that appeared to be that employed by sundry Slavs residing in the geographical region of Macedonia. Almost immediatelya voice barked: «Ελληνικά! Μιλάτε ελληνικά! Σαν δεν ντρέπεστε! Έχουμε εθνικήεορτή!» ("Greek! Speak Greek! Aren't you ashamed of yourselves? This is a national celebration!")

The two elderly ladies did not look in the direction of their admonisher. Instead, they stopped talking altogether and marched mutely on, their faces completely expressionless. One guessed that this was not the first time that they had been castigated for speaking their preferred language and I felt some sympathy for them, as they had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to attend the Greek Independence Day March and their choice of linguistic medium should not have been considered as divesting them of patriotism, or casting aspersions as to their ethnic or cultural affiliations.

A week or so earlier, I had attended my local church and being a reader therein, went behind the iconostasis in order to obtain a blessing from the priests. At our church, there is an elderly, Greek-speaking priest and a young, Australian born counterpart. Having obtained the blessing, the young priest was enquiring as to my parent's health when the older priest interrupted: «Ο Κώστας ξέρει ελληνικάκαι πολύ καλά μάλιστα.» ("Dean speaks Greek and he speaks it quite well.") The admonition was clear, as was the young priest's reaction. Rather than switch to Greek, he terminated our conversation altogether.

These two incidents in turn remind me of countless other times where, at Greek functions, disgruntled members of the first generation, crossing the dance floor in order to go to the toilet, would pass by the tables of the youth relegated to the rear of the hall, catch snatches of conversation and exclaim: «ΕλληνικάΜιλάτε ελληνικά!» In no situation did the admonished youth, all of whom were possessed of passable linguistic capabilities in Greek, switch to that language. Instead, they ceased their chatter until their critic passed, and continued along in English.

This is to be contrasted with the Greek youth of Northern Epirus, in modern day Albania. Despite its lip-service to international socialism, Enver Hoxha's regime in Albania was thoroughly nationalistic and in many areas populated by Greeks, speaking Greek was prohibited. Nonetheless, during my travels to that country after the fall of the regime, I was amazed to witness countless youth not only able to speak in Greek but actively choosing to do so. Their rationale was quite simple: "We are not them and they could never force us to be them. We speak our own tongue." Similarly, those whose families had been forced into internal exile in regions where only Albanian was spoken and who had grown up not knowing Greek, were able to pick up the language and become fluent speakers after only a year or two. The difference between these youth and ours is marked and perhaps can be explained by the fact that for the Greeks of Northern Epirus, Greek is a language not only of identity, but also of aspiration, it providing the key to induction within a society that until recently was comparatively well off. Further, unlike the case of English, the alternative daily language is seen as the language of the oppressor.

In Australia however, even among the generations that are still competent in Greek, Greek language use is a matter of nuance and register. Primarily, Australian-born or Australia-raised speakers will use Greek only to communicate with their monolingual parents, other elders, or recent arrivals, though in most cases such recent arrivals relieve us of the hysteria that hits when we are compelled to speak in Greek, for most are conversant in English and will magnanimously switch to that language in order to facilitate conversation. It is however, inordinately rare for two Australian-born Greeks to converse with each other in Greek. In many situations, there is a tacit understanding that to initiate a conversation with a person of one's own generation in Greek is a social faux pas tantamount to rudeness. Possibly, this is due to the fact that there appears to be an unspoken understanding that we should all speak Greek, we do not want to, or find it inconvenient to do so, and therefore placing someone under the pressure and discomfort to perform in this manner is downright reprehensible. Further than this, to speak in Greek is to assume the role of the monolingual first generation, with all the connotations, negative and otherwise, possibly leading us to conclude that rightly or wrongly, the role of the Greek language in our community has been for the first generation to communicate its imperatives to the latter generations, and for those latter generations, to respond, in the appropriate register.

However, this is not always so. Take this snippet of a conversation I was privileged enough to listen to at a recent panigyri I attended, taking place between two fluent speakers of both Greek and English in their late sixties:

-          Bill, I want two σουβλάκια. Get two.

-          So you want two, τώρα?

-          Yes, two, είπα. Can't you hear me?

Consequently Mr Bill walks up to the purveyor of souvlakia. He notices that the balding purveyor is "young," approximately in his early forties, so he speaks to him in English: "I'll have two souvlakia" (notice how in English, the Greek plural for souvlakia is retained.) The purveyor, who is actually a recent arrival from Greece, asks: «Να σουβάλω τζατζικάκι;». Mr Bill turns to his wife and asks: "Do you want tzatziki?" Upon being instructed that the answer is in the affirmative, Mr Bill turns back to the vendor and states: "Yeah, βάλε, but not too much."

            Here in this small conversation, reside a good many of the paradoxes and contradictions as to the status and role of the Greek language within our community and between the generations. The fact of the matter is that though March may be "Speak Greek Month," and while we all agree in principle, that the maintenance of the Greek language is important for a multitude of reasons, in practice, there are deep social and psychological reasons as to why we are on the whole, ambivalent about the Greek language, its relevance and use and it is high time that these are honestly and openly examined and addressed.

This is especially so given that a dearth of representative youth organisations, have actually lent their enthusiasm to the Speak Greek In March campaign, save for NUGAS. One wonders whether this is because they a) were approached and were not capable of providing any effective support, b) given that they enjoy a marginal position within the Greek community were not approached or c) like all other Greek organisations are not representative enough to make a difference to the campaign. Either way, the fact that the laudable Speak Greek in March campaign is an endeavor originating from the first generation, albeit from a sector of the same which is fully bilingual and active in broader Australian affairs should be noted. For this is, albeit couched more diplomatically, tantamount to the crusty patriarchs of old directing their errant children to speak a language that they have chosen not to speak. As such, the real question, which is what does it tell us about the latter generations and perception of their parent's language, that after half a century, the impetus to preserve the Greek language still has to come from the first generation, is still being ignored.

 In the case of the slavophone ladies at the march, it could be argued that speaking in a language one feel comfortable with does not in any way detract from one's perception of their identity. The question therefore, moving forward and which must be addressed, if a coherent language policy is to be developed within the community is what that identity actually comprises, together with the role the Greek language is to play within it.

First published in NKEE on Saturday 21 February 2015

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Urë Me Një Hark

“Five more hours and it will be a thousand
two hundred, sixty-six years and a day,
since the bridge-way here fell crumbling to the ground.” Dante, The Inferno.
Award winning Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare’s classic “Ura Me Tri Harqe,” (the Three-Arched Bridge), concerns itself with native legends that have been woven about bridges and their supernatural powers in the Balkans for millennia. In a re-telling of the “Legjenda ë Rozafes,” a legend set in pre-Ottoman northern Albania but almost substantively identical to the Greek legend of the bridge of Arta, we learn from the monk Gjon narrating Kadare’s novel, that an Albanian ruler that his land is in need of a building project, this time a bridge, to link Albania to the rest of the Balkans at a time when Ottomans have already infiltrated the area, in a precursor to invasion.   Though this bridge goes up quickly, after each night the piers and arches show signs of damage no hammer or claw could inflict, generating wide-spread gossip in favor of another “sacrifice for the sake of the thousands and thousands of travelers” who will cross the bridge “down the centuries to come.” 
The sense of uncertainty with which Gjon relates the myth-making process, malignantly employed by the shadowy forces constructing the bridge, (obscure world powers, hand in hand with proto-capitalists) mirrors contemporary fears concerning the future of the region. Kadare dwells on the power of myth, viewing, exploring its creative and destructive capabilities. The bridge itself becomes the greatest myth of all, however. The people of the town are consumed by the possibilities the bridge suggests, but by connecting East and West, it dooms all those living under its shadow.
Local resistance to the bridge is not predicated upon the sacrifice of the stonemason’s wife, which is seen as necessary, (as is also the case in the erection of the bridge at Arta epic) but rather, because the ‘shackling’ of the river by way of a bridge is considered an overthrow of the natural order of things and an expression of hubris against the powers of nature, that can only bring about calamity. 
                Beyond the supernatural, the local populace experience grave disquiet. They are not quite sure as to the intentions of the bridge builders or who is behind them and so deceptions, self-deceptions and quarrels multiply. Is the bridge meant to breach, or to confine? Is there a real sacrifice involved, or just a crime?
It was to Kadare, that my mind turned when learning of the recent tragic collapse of the centuries old single span stone bridge at Plaka, in the Tzoumerka region of Epirus. Spanning the Arachthos River, in the same manner as its most famous multi-spanned counterpart at Arta, it had the widest single span of any stone-made bridge in Greece, and possibly the Balkans.
In a true mirror of the Albanian and Greek legends, the River Arachthos resisted its fettering twice, with the single-arched bridge of Plaka collapsing in both 1860 and 1863, when it actually disintegrated on the day of its inauguration. It took the efforts (and hopefully not the human sacrifice), of master stone-mason Kostas Bekas to finally tame the Arachthos, in 1866, whereupon a permanent fetter was thrown across it, one that survived until the other day.
In keeping with Kadare’s conception in “the Three Arched Bridge” of the bridge as both breach and jailer, the Plaka Bridge marked, between 1881 and 1912, the border between Greece and the Ottoman Empire, which is why, in a short distance from the bridge, there remain traces of an outpost of the Greek army, an inn and a customs building.
While in Kadare’s novel, the bridge was constructed as a means of facilitating an Ottoman onslaught through the Balkans, the reverse took place at Plaka, where the bridge withstood heavy bombing by Nazi aircraft during the unspeakably brutal German occupation. At that time, minor damage was repaired with cement. Again, bridging, but confining and separating, it marked the spot where, on 29 February 1944, the Treaty of Plaka for co-operation was signed between the leftist resistance movement of EAM and the rightist resistance movement of EDES. In true Kadarian fashion, the Plaka Bridge was not able to bridge the ideological or other differences between the two factions and soon after, EAM chased EDES out of the region.
During heavy rains in 2007, the bridge nearly collapsed, and a restoration was considered but not effected. And thus it came to pass that on 1 February of this year, in the wake of the assumption to power in Greece of a man who hails from the region of Arta, that the shackles binding the river Arachthos were loosed in Plaka, and the entire structure, collapsed into the raging waters below. 
Already local superstitions and hysterias, buried for generations are beginning to re-emerge. For some, and in complete contrast to the locals of Kadare’s novel who opposed their bridge, the collapse of the Plaka bridge is a portent of dire things to come. While Kadare’s bridge led to conquest and a form of globalization, the Plaka bridge, which was used primarily to direct traffic from Tzoumerka to Thessaly, no longer leads anywhere. Are we therefore witnessing the natural order of things in Greece realigning itself to reflect broader a cultural, moral and political malaise? Are the forces of nature reasserting their mastery over the land in order to put right the devastation caused by their incompetent and unworthy stewards, or are they in fact conspiring to convey a potent message to all of the descendants of those invaders and exploiters who were facilitated by Kadare’s sister bridge, centuries before?
Plaka’s single-span bridge, or rather its demise (Urë me një hark, as Kadare would put it), thus comes as a stark sign of the times. In parallel with Kadare’s pre-Islamic Albania, our particular land of the bridge is facing a time of strife and uncertainty. Assailed by those from the outside, confined, insular and dysfunctional within, is the collapse of the bridge therefore a reminder for all to look inward and gather inner strength from the travails of the past and their own resources, rather than rely on those outsiders, possessed of dubious motivations waiting on the other side of the river? Or is the whole collapse of the bridge an artifice of mummery and illusion, designed to disorient us and make us despair, in the same manner as the demonic Malacoda attempted to mislead Virgil in Dante’s Inferno?  We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
Nikos Loulis, the 29 year old local entrepreneur who has volunteered to bear the expense of reconstructing the bridge at Plaka should take note: For every wall that is broken down, another, stony and silent, rises in its place. In post-bridge societies, delirium, superstition and madness mostly reign. The bridge may be the sign of progress, a symbol of humanity’s ingenuity, resilience or of our own history but in inevitably, what Kadare teaches us, it that the "wicked waters" it spans will, enigmatically, win out, after all. 

First published in NKEE on Saturday 14 February 2015

Saturday, February 07, 2015


I am just old enough to remember pale-blue suited and immaculately permed uncles and older cousins entering into the matrimonial estate in the eighties. In furtherance of the ancillary inductive rituals, appertaining thereto, each of these embarked upon their new lives by performing the bridal waltz to what transpired as the Greek wedding anthem of the decade, the impassioned love song by Umberto Tozzi, "Ti Amo." Stumbling woodenly upon the floor, they gyrated, as the Italian lover crooned: "Ti Amo/ un soldo ti amo/ In aria/ Ti amo/ Se viene testa vuol dire che basta lasciamoci.."
It took just the first velvet-lined stanza to alight smoothly upon the eardrums of unmarried female cousins to cause them to turn glassy eyed and sigh, as they conjured up images of their dream lover, Scott, from Neighbours, George Michael or in one very disturbing case, Tzon Tikis. Meanwhile, unconsciously prompted by Tozzi, sundry aunts and uncles who enjoyed dysfunctional relationship would draw their chairs closer, look into each other's eyes, hold hands and smile. The allure of Tozzi's Ti Amo was therefore immense and this despite my iconoclastic grandfather, a self-taught speaker of Italian, pointing out that perhaps Ti Amo, was not the most appropriate bridal song, since it sings not of love requited, but rather, laments love lost and is thus an evil omen: "Ti amo, God how I love you so. My heart just won't let go. Day after day I'm still holding on, even though you're gone. Ti amo, wasn't I good to you?"
Pundits by the way are still deliberating the means by which the Italian Chicken Dance also made an appearance at Greek weddings right up until the mid-nineties. A consensus is gradually forming around incidents or communal lunacy, musical aberrations which have quite rightly been consciously buried within historical memory and must never be spoken of ever again.
In those days, great stock was taken of bridal waltzes and their musical accompaniments, also an Italian aberration, since the traditional Greek wedding was lean, simple and without fanfare or under attention upon the couple, a state to which it is gradually returning as an increasing number of young couples dispense with the need to impress relatives they are no longer in contact with, with inventive chair arrangements. Somehow, these were held to be a reflection of the couple itself. A great favourite was Μanolis Mitsias' «Επειδή σ'αγαπώ.» (Because I love you.) Singing of the spiritual rebirth that comes with love, it was widely debated by my elderly uncles. «Επειδή σαγαπώτα φτερά ξαναράβω στους ώμους,» (because I love you, I re-sew wings upon my shoulders), is easy enough to understand, but rather than denoting an imminent take off (from the airport for the compulsory honeymoon to Greece, there to obtain wedding presents from relatives domiciled in that country - according to my aged great-uncles' interpretation), did this in fact hint at an Icarian warning not to fly too close to the sun, as one wedding guest, recently arrived from Greece, speculated? 
And then there were these mystifying lyrics: «Επειδή σαγαπώξαναβγαίνω με τσέρκι στους δρόμουςκαι φωνάζωστους δρόμουςσαγαπώ.» "Why he going out into the streets holding a «τσέκι» (cheque)?" one uncle would ask the other. «Γιατί τώρα που την παντρεύτηκε νομίζει πώς κέρδιζε το ταττσλόττο,» ("because he thinks that in marrying her that he has one the lottery,") the other would reply. "You're right, he has," the other would riposte. "His father in law is loaded. There is the shop in North Melbourne, the business, the two homes in.." This interpretation enjoyed such force of authority that when was able later to ascertain that a τσέρκι was in fact a hoop and that the song referred to love being a form of second childhood, enabling one to play in the streets with a hoop and stick, I was generally not believed.
The love song king of the age was however, the great crone and swooner, Yiannis Parios. Getting married to the strains of «Για πάντα μαζί,» ("Always together") was a rite of passage for many an eighties Greek couple, and compulsory repertoire for any  self-respecting Greek wedding band. As the couple danced, older guests would pause at the words: «Για πάντα μαζίσαυτό τανηφόρι που λέμε ζωήγια πάντα μαζί κι αν έρθουν καημοίμαζί θα μαςβρούνεγια πάντα μαζί, » clucking their tongues knowingly and nodding their heads in appreciation as they opined: "Yes life is an uphill struggle, yes difficult times lie ahead, but what can you do, you are in it together. They will see."
Then there was the stirringly powerful: «Να 'μουνα Θεός για λίγο,» (If only I was God for a short while), which was highly favoured by Greek males of more than advanced pirouetting tendencies, for its cadenzas enabled one to literally sweep their partner off her feet in time to the notes crashing this way and that about them. As one young bridegroom, the last of the mustachioed eighties types, tossed his new bride into the air, his old aunts hearkened to the words of the song: «Πώς να σαγγίξω πώςΦοβάμαι τόσο φωςΦοβάμαι τέτοια αγάπη, Θεέ μου τόσο δάκρυ, μη μου ζητάς να πιω. Νά 'μουνα Θεός για λίγο, απ' το φόβο να ξεφύγω...» ("How can I touch you? I fear so much light, I fear such a love. God, don't ask me to drink such tears.If only I was God for a short while, to escape from my fear.") "Ha, I told you!" one aunt crowed triumphantly. The rumours are true. They don't love each other. He is being forced to marry. He's made her pregnantIt's all in the songThere is a reason for everything you know." In this particular case, the ancient aunt made an exceedingly good call. 
A similar conversation took place when one couple whose wedding I attended, chose another of Parios' greatest hits as their waltz: «Θέλω να σου μιλήσω μα τρέμει η φωνή μουλες κι αγαπάω πρώτη φορά στη ζωή μουθέλω νατραγουδήσω μα δε μαφήνει το δάκρυ αχαγάπηαγάπηαγάπη.» Sadly, the verse"I want to speak to you but my voice trembles, as if I am falling in love for the first time of in my life," were construed by guests as casting an aspersion upon the bride's virginity, the presence of which, at the wedding, was an important concept for Greek-Australians in the eighties. Several blows ensued and even today, some decades later, certain guests present that night are still maintain radio silence with each other.
All this seemed to suggest to me, that the addition of the lyrics of a song performed by whoever was the contemporary love god of the age in my own nuptials (which eventually took place in the new millennium), was in necessary keeping with Greek-Australian tradition and the selection of these was exceedingly important, as lyrics confer power. Identifying Lefteris Pantazis as the new Parios, but also enjoying the music of Tarkan, from whom much of his material derives, my original plan was to marry my two loves, if one pardons the pun by entering the reception accompanied by the strains of Pantazis' lyrics: «Με ζηλεύεις για το τίποτα, κι όλα μου τα βλέπεις ύποπτα, μα στο λέω δεν τρέχει τίποτα.» until simultaneously raised ominous eyebrows from mother and prospective bride disabused me from that course of action. My next suggestion, making use of the Pantazis' classic:  «Μείνε μαζί μουέγγυος είμαι πολύ φερέγγυος  ("fall pregnant with me, I'm very trustworthy,") almost caused me to become dispossessed of those parts of my anatomy that would have facilitated the execution of my exhortation.
In absence of agreement, we mercifully dispensed with the bridal waltz altogether, though I did include within my wedding speech a reference to the Epirot folk lyrics: «Κι αν θα παντρευτείςτι καλό θα δειςΘα φιλήσειςθ'αγκαλιάσειςκαι θα βαρεθείς.»  I have been paying for this ever since, proving that deep thought and homages to the long lost eighties, pose no competition to the likes of Ploutarxos and Hatzigiannis, wherein, lies safety.

First published in NKEE on Saturday 7 February 2015